If you are thinking of giving someone you love a very special Christmas gift and have thousands of dollars to spend, you might consider getting a bottle of Louis XIII.
Louis XIII is one of the world’s most expensive cognacs selling for over $2,000 a bottle. It is made in France and aged in oak barrels that are several hundred years old. Because of its reputation as one of the best cognacs available, older bottles can sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction. If you do not have $2,000 to spend on a bottle of Louis XIII, don’t worry. You can get a glass of it at a restaurant for only $250.
One of the reasons that this cognac is so prized throughout the world is the beautiful crystal decanter it is sold in. Just the empty bottle sells for over $200. Some special edition decanters have even sold for over $500 at auction. It is natural that a cognac that is so expensive would be sold in a bottle that is worthy of it. It is also natural that the connoisseurs who value this cognac so highly would also value the bottle it comes in.
Now, if cognacs and fine wines are distributed in beautiful containers, how fitting is it that the mother of Our Lord, who carried in her womb the Saviour of the World, should herself be the most worthy and purest of vessels? Because she would carry Jesus within her, God preserved Mary from sin from the moment of her conception. Our Heavenly Father fashioned her into a beautiful, stainless vessel to bear His Son.
When the angel Gabriel greets Mary at the Annunciation, he calls her “full of grace”. We repeat the angel’s greeting every time we pray the Hail Mary. She is so full of grace that there is no room for anything else. There is no room for sin, no room for hate, no room for evil. There is only room for Jesus. And as a bottle allows us to see what is within it, so Mary allows us to see Jesus within her. The clearer the bottle is, the better we see what is within it. Just so, our Lord shines through Mary more clearly than any other person in history because she was the purest creature to ever live.
Because of this, we can learn from Mary what it means to love Jesus. No one loved or knew Him better than she did. And because Jesus gave her to us to be His mother, she loves us and wants to introduce us to Jesus. In all our struggles with temptation and the burdens of life, we can turn to her for help as we would to our own mothers. We can be assured that she will bring our needs to her Son for us. We can also be assured that Jesus will not deny any request made to Him by His mother.
This feast day is also an opportunity to examine ourselves. We also have Christ living within us through faith and baptism. Is our soul a worthy dwelling place for the Saviour of the World? Do we strive everyday to avoid sin with God’s help so that we remain a pure vessel for Jesus? And can others see Jesus within us? Jesus was born of Mary so that He could offer us the forgiveness of our sins and the power to live a good and holy life. He has also given us His Mother to serve as an example and to pray for us. We can be assured, then, that God will make us pure and holy if we will only entrust our lives into His loving hands.
Today we join with Christians throughout the world in celebrating the power of God who preserved Mary from sin from the moment of her conception. We also celebrate His promise that through the death and resurrection of Jesus we too one day will be free from sin and filled with grace, love and joy. The Holy Spirit is at work in us even now to fulfill that promise by purifying us so that we may be worthy vessels to carry Jesus within us as Mary was. As we approach Jesus today in the Eucharist, let us embrace Him as wholeheartedly as Mary did and ask Him to make our souls a worthy place for Him to dwell. Then we will experience God working in powerful ways in our lives as He did in the life of Mary.