On the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that was celebrated yesterday, the priest celebrating mass gave a very helpful and interesting sermon, so here goes with what I remember and have taken away from it.
Father asked us to consider that when Mary was born she was already as holy as the holiest saint. Her immaculate state even at the moment of conception earned her the highest place in heaven. It is clear that in the religious sense of the word, we place Holy and Immaculate on the same plane. However, immaculate has more of an idea of purity and perfection in it, while holiness refers really to a being's closeness with God. So Mary's purity and perfection, what I will call her holiness, was at least equal to that of the greatest saint at her birth. And it has been increasing infinitely since then. That is a lot of merit and grace that she in her generosity has offered to share with us in so many ways.
But this feast specifically refers to the Immaculateness of her Heart. What is so special about the heart? This is not in reference to the heart beating in Mary's body, neither is that the reference that humans mean when they say that someone has a good heart. Heart in this case refers to that area of the soul that is not covered by reason and will. Reason and will are the two areas of the human soul that we usually consider in any discussion of man's intangible attributes. Often we forget that the heart is a vital third aspect of our humanity. After some thought I have decided this: In every choice in one's life his will dictates the what, his reason dictates the why and his heart dictates the how. As Father was talking about the heart being a part of the soul, I was trying to decide what aspect of human decisions it corresponded with, and that is what I came up with. And I think we will all agree that most of human life is basically just a bunch of decisions all in a row.
So if the heart dictates the how of something that we intend to do, we could almost in a sense say that it is the most important aspect of the soul, just like St. Paul said that Charity is the most important of the three theological virtues. It seems almost backwards at first, but only because reason and will (or hope and faith) really occur in the soul before the heart comes into play (or charity). In other words, a child can think and demand things long before he can consciously love or use his heart to decide how he is going to do something. It is also true that in order to use his heart he must first use his reason. Just as in order to be charitable, we must first have faith.
All this from a simple sermon on the Immaculate. That is what critical and valuable thinking is all about. It is hard to remind myself of that sometimes.