This is the last of a series of nine articles about the Immaculate Conception and other related themes that was published daily from December 1 through 9.
On February 11, 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a simple young girl in a place called the Grotto of Massabielle, located near Lourdes, in the south of France. The place was far from what one would imagine as a holy place, the cave was occasionally used as pigsty; there was a garbage dump close by. Our Lady was going to clean that place and more so, she was going to leave there a living model of what she plans to do with the world. Our Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in that place. We are going to focus only on a few details of that encounter. The first and most important is the phrase that Our Lady used to identify herself. Speaking in the local Gascoigne dialect she said: “Qué soï era Immaculado Councepcioũ” that is “I am the Immaculate Conception” in plain English. On February 25, 1858 Bernadette explained that the luminous lady had told her “to drink of the water of the spring, to wash in it and to eat the herb that grew there,” as an act of penance. To everyone’s surprise, the next day the small fountain that had appeared in the cave was no longer muddy but clear water flowed.
Since those days the Grotto of Massabielle has changed a lot. Many people descend daily on the town of Lourdes seeking cure for their various infirmities. Since those days there are many thousands of accounts of miraculous cures to various ailments. The apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes and the small fountain of water that has been flowing for more than one hundred and fifty years are still showing how the power of God can regenerate nature no matter how sick and ruined it may be. Lourdes is also a strong witness to the power of faith. Imagine a person suffering from terminal cancer who is wholly restored to full health after bathing in the water. It has not happen once, it has happened many, many times and it continues to happen!
When we think of the Immaculate Conception we often think of the beginning of Mary’s life.  That is good and perfectly in accordance with Catholic teaching: In the Constitution Ineffabilis Deus of December, 1854, Pope Pius IX declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.” That is in essence what the theological definition of the Immaculate Conception is. However when Our Lady of Lourdes presented herself to Bernadette, she said she was the Immaculate Conception, thus extending the concept to her whole being. When the miraculous water started flowing in the formerly dirty cave, Our Lady also showed us that Immaculate Conception is also a curative mission for all mankind.
That reminds me of the river of water that flows from the Throne of God in the beautiful allegory of Revelation 22:1-3.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. For no longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.
The image also reminds me of a story from the Old Testament when God uses another young lady to effect a miraculous cure in 2 Kings 5:1-4
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”
Observe that a certain element of incredulity is present in this story. But the incredulous person is not a foreigner but the very king of Israel:
So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.” 2 Kings 5:5-7
Providentially the prophet Elisha calmed his king and told him to invite the infirm warrior to be cured:
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. 2 Kings 5:8-14
Fortunately the common sense of the servants prevailed over the foolish national pride of the powerful Naaman. How many times ourselves refuse the healing power of God because we are in disagreement with the method even when we trust in His power! Faith is a strange thing, the powerful man did not doubt the witness of the little captive girl, he dared to ask his lord’s permission for the long trip, he made it to the door of the prophet’s home, and listened to the instructions… it was then when his pride was hurt. He was not received like a powerful man, he was told to the nearby Jordan, a minor stream compared to the mighty rivers of his country. Then he doubted and perhaps feared to be the object of ridicule later on: “Did you listen to the counsel of a slave, and traveled hundreds of miles, bothered two kings, and took a dip on that wimpy creek thinking you were going to be cured? What kind of a fool are you?” Naaman is only a human being in distress, and how many times we revert to the “safety” of our misery simply because we are familiar with it? I credit Naaman’s wife, who was very likely the one who chose the servants for the household. Those servants were as good to Naaman as the little Israelite girl was; they talked some common sense into the proud warrior’s head. Naaman took the dip seven times, and he was cured.
Now, there are quite a few accounts of rivers in Bible prophecy and they are often associated with the curative power of water, pointing mainly to Christian baptism and God’s power to regenerate through that sacrament. Today we look at the Immaculate Conception as God’s instrument to cure and regenerate nature and mankind. Remember that in Lourdes Our Lady did not say, “I was born by means of the Immaculate Conception.” She said “I am the Immaculate Conception” and so the question arises: what is being conceived beyond Mary herself? I think the answer is obvious. Mary of Nazareth was perfected to be “the Morning Star” preceding the arrival of the Messiah. She was conceived without sin so that God the Son incarnate could inhabit a womb free of the stain of original sin. So in the end of times, the world has to receive the same Messiah and once again Mary has to prepare the world for His arrival. That ties perfectly with the promise of Fatima: “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” That promised triumph is the first light of a new world that will take shape to receive the eternal kingdom of Mary’s Son. Mary once again must precede the arrival of her Divine Son.
Before she was in labor
She gave birth;
Before her pain came upon her
She delivered a son.
Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment?
For as soon as Zion was in labor
She brought forth her children.
Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,
And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
And you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,
And bounced upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you;
You shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
* * *
Yesterday, on December 8 we celebrated the day of the Immaculate Conception. These days the world seems to be fraught with danger and unspeakable acts of violence and hate. Yet we present to the world the banner of Mary. Miraculous events will soon happen just like in biblical times. We should not be afraid and wait for the moment when Mary makes herself visible to all before her Son turns His attention to the affairs of this world.
A tiny part of my mission was to write this article so you are aware of Our Blessed Mother’s interest in you and every human being alive today. Let us join in praying the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, asking Our Mother for peace in the world, and the prompt return of Her Son, Jesus.