The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the subject of a lot of misconceptions (so to speak). Perhaps the most common one, held even by many Catholics, is that it celebrates the conception of Christ in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That the feast occurs only 17 days before
should make the error obvious! We celebrate another feastБthe Бon March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas. It was at the Annunciation, when the Blessed Virgin Mary humbly accepted the honor bestowed on her by God and announced by the angel Gabriel, that the conception of Christ took place. Date: Type of Feast: Solemnity;. Readings: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38 ( Prayers: Other Names for the Feast: The Feast of the, in its oldest form, goes back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. In other words, this feast celebrates the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of ; and nine months later, on September 8, we celebrate the. As originally celebrated (and as still celebrated in the ), however, the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne does not have the same understanding as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception has in the Catholic Church today. The feast arrived in the West probably no earlier than the 11th century, and at that time, it began to be tied up with a developing theological controversy. Both the Eastern and the Western Church had maintained that Mary was free from sin throughout her life, but there were different understandings of what this meant.
Because of the doctrine of, some in the West began to believe that Mary could not have been sinless unless she had been saved from Original Sin at the moment of her conception (thus making the conception immaculate ). Others, however, including St. Thomas Aquinas, argued that Mary could not have been redeemed if she had not been subject to sinБat least, to Original Sin. The answer to St. Thomas Aquinas s objection, as Blessed John Duns Scotus (d. 1308) showed, was that God had sanctified Mary at the moment of her conception in His foreknowledge that the Blessed Virgin would consent to bear Christ. In other words, she too had been redeemedБher redemption had simply been accomplished at the moment of her conception, rather than (as with all other Christians) in. After Duns Scotus s defense of the Immaculate Conception, the feast spread throughout the West, though it was still often celebrated at the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne. On February 28, 1476, Pope Sixtus IV extended the feast to the entire Western Church, and in 1483 threatened with excommunication those who opposed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. By the middle of the 17th century, all opposition to the doctrine had died out in the Catholic Church. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX officially declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of the Church, which means that all Christians are bound to accept it as true. As the Holy Father wrote in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance 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, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. for signing up.
Few doctrines of the Catholic Church are as misunderstood as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Catholics celebrate every year on December 8. Many people, including many Catholics, think that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That event, though, is celebrated at the feast of the (March 25, nine months before ). What is the Immaculate Conception? The Immaculate Conception refers to the condition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother,. We celebrate the Бher birthБon September 8; nine months before that is December 8, the. Fr. John Hardon, S. J. , in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, notes that Neither the Greek nor Latin Fathers explicitly taught the Immaculate Conception, but they professed it implicitly. It would take many centuries, though, for the Catholic Church to recognize the Immaculate Conception as a doctrineБas something which all Christians must believeБand many more before Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, would declare it a dogmaБthat is, a doctrine that the Church teaches was revealed by God Himself.
In the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX wrote that We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful. As Father Hardon further writes, the Blessed Virgin s freedom from sin was an unmerited gift of God or special grace, and an exception to the law, or privilege, which no other created person has received. Another misconception people have is that Mary s Immaculate Conception was necessary to ensure that would not be passed on to Christ. This has never been a part of the teaching on the Immaculate Conception; rather, the Immaculate Conception represents Christ s saving grace operating in Mary in anticipation of His redemption of man and in God s foreknowledge of Mary s acceptance of His Will for her. In other words, the Immaculate Conception was not a precondition for Christ s act of redemption but the result of that act. It is the concrete expression of God s love for Mary, who gave herself fully, completely, and without hesitation to His service.