I spent yesterday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which was also the beginning of the Year of Mercy (as declared by Pope Francis) at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, Long Island. They held an Academic Symposium which was presented by St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. Laypeople attended as well as priests and it appeared that all the seminarians from St. Joseph's came as well. They arrived and entered the refectory at lunchtime and it was impressive how many there were in attendance.
They had excellent speakers at the symposium and a variety of lectures were offered for participants. There were so many good choices that I wanted to be everywhere and listen to everyone so it was difficult to choose. I attended Fr. Kevin O'Reilly's (Academic Dean and Professor) talk, "Mary as the New Eve: 21st Century Perspectives on an Ancient Image" and Msgr. Peter Vaccari's (Rector of St. Joseph Seminary) lecture, "The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, in the Jubilee Year of Mercy."
Both lectures were great. It was the first time I heard Fr. Kevin speak and it was very enlightening. Fr. Kevin pointed out all the parallels between Eve and Mary. So there are all these parallels in the Bible which I was fascinated to learn. For instance, as Fr. Kevin said, "Eve listened to the word of the serpent but Mary obeyed the word of God." Eve gave birth to sin, but Mary's nature was used to reverse Eve's sin and bring the Savior into the world. Mary gives to Jesus his human nature and thereby reverses Eve's sin. Very intellectually stimulating. Fr. Kevin is an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker.
I mentioned at the end of the lecture that I find it fascinating that God seems to place in salvation history parallels as well as paradoxes, which you can find throughout the Bible and Bible figures. I find that interesting. When I get to Heaven I'm going to ask God what is the fascination with parallel and paradox about.
Msgr. Peter Vaccari's talk was also excellent. I've heard Msgr. Vaccari speak before so I knew it would be good. He mentioned the papal document declaring the "Year of Mercy" and said it stated that "All salvation history attests to the Mercy of God" ...In Jesus, the Father's mercy is made known."
Mercy is always restorative. He mentioned that the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple in Jerusalem was for the ancient Israelites God's abiding presence with them. With the destruction of the Temple the Ark disappeared. For Christians, Mary becomes the new Ark of the Covenant. Mary becomes the new seat of mercy and she brings forth the Christ. He said we should keep our eyes fixed on the merciful gaze of Jesus.
It was a wonderful day and there was a lot of very fascinating information which I will continue to dwell upon. There is much more to this "Year of Mercy" that will have to be unpacked alittle at a time.