In Georges Bernanos'
novel, Diary of a Country Priest, an older priest speaks
to the young curé whose diary we are reading of the Blessed
Virgin. It would be tempting to quote the whole passage, it
is so eloquent. But one phrase in it leaps out to the reader.
Our Blessed Mother is described as "younger than sin."
conceived, Mary is, in Wordsworth's phrase, "our tainted nature's
solitary boast." Her condition is that of our first parents
before the Fall, a childlike innocence beyond anything Wordsworth,
or anyone else, could imagine.
Our earthly mother
shared our weakness, however she might have mastered it, and
we could always turn to her in the expectation of a sympathetic
hearing. Such maternal mercy sprang at least in part from
an experiential knowledge of the folly of which we are all
capable. All except Mary.
It is easy to
feel sheepish about what our guardian angel must make of us,
but he after all is an angel whose evening knowledge is always
balanced by his morning knowledge. But Mary is one of us.
She knew joy and sorrow, expectation and loss, the full range
of human emotions and in an intensity we can scarcely imagine.
But unlike us, her emotions and will were always subject to
reason, virtuous. She was utterly without sin. And she is
the mother of sinners. What must she make of us?
Sin has aged
and coarsened us, but she is forever young, existing in a
condition that must make her seem almost alien to us. How
marvelous then that she is the mother of mercy, our sure refuge
in this Vale of Tears. She is, as Bernanos suggests, forever
childlike, younger than sin. In this season, as we commemorate
in a special way the Nativity, our thoughts turn to the mother
of Our Lord, whom we venerate as a baby. Humanly, he grew
in wisdom and grace, and so of course did she. But neither
lost the childlike innocence we can only recover in baptism,
the remedy for that felix culpa that we, alas, in our
weakness continue to bear the mark of. And so we turn constantly
to her who is younger than sin.