Feast of the Immaculate Conception
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception commemorates the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is celebrated on December 8th each year and is considered by the Roman Catholic Church as a holy day of obligation.
This is a significant date for all Catholics which is not supposedly treated lightly. As a holy day of obligation, they are required by the first Precept of the Church to attend Mass.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Christ, was conceived without sin and her conception was thus immaculate.
This day does not refer to to Mary's conceiving Jesus by the Holy Spirit, but by the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne and by her father, St. Joachim. The idea that makes her conception immaculate is not that she was conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin, but from the very moment of her conception, she was filled with the grace of God and that her most pure soul had never been stained, from the first moment of her existence, from the shadow of sin so she might be a pure vessel by whom Christ could enter the world. Mary's sinless conception is the reason why Catholics refer to Mary as "full of grace."
- Exodus 25:11-21 - the ark of the Old Covenant was made of the purest gold for God's Word. Mary is the ark of the New Covenant and is the purest vessel for the Word of God made flesh.
- Luke 1:28-30 - the angel Gabriel greets her "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you"; "you have found favor with God"
- Luke 1:48-49 - For He has looked upon His handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name.
During the seventh century, a feast called the Conception of Mary spread in the Eastern Church, and may even date to as early as the 5th century in the Churches of Syria. It was circulated in the West during the eighth century then it received its present name, the Immaculate Conception. It became a part of the Roman Catholic feast in the eighteenth century. The feast spread from Naples to England, France, Germany, and eventually to Rome.
In a statement delivered by Pius IX in 1854, Ineffabilis Deus of 8 December, he mentioned the following: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”
The Franciscans agreed with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, its feast and its doctrine, while the Dominicans initially opposed the idea. A debate ensued up to the 19th century. The Council of Basle in 1439 affirmed that the Immaculate Conception was a pious belief in accord with the Catholic faith. In 1476 Pope Sixtus IV approved the feast with its own Mass and Office, and in 1708, Pope Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church, making it a holy day of obligation.
Before Pope Pius IX defined the Immaculate Conception as Church dogma, the missals referred to it as as the Feast of the Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary. It focused more on the action of her conception rather than her preservation from original sin. A missal published in England in 1806 indicates the same collect for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was used for this feast as well.
The following are some of the popular prayers recited during the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:
- Prayer to the Immaculate Conception
who by the Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
did prepare a worthy dwelling place for Your Son,
we beseech You that, as by the foreseen death of this, Your Son, You did preserve Her from all stain,
so too You would permit us, purified through Her intercession, to come unto You.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy
Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.
- Immaculate Conception Morning Prayer
you prepared the Virgin Mary
to be the worthy mother of your Son.
You let her share beforehand
in the salvation Christ
would bring by his death,
and kept her sinless
from the first moment of her conception.
Help us by her prayers
to live in your presence without sin.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen
- Invocation in Honor of Mary Immaculate
Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse to you
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- Society of St.Pius X District of Asia. (accessed on December 06, 2008).
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- New Advent. (accessed on December 06, 2008).