The Immaculate Conception
Solemnity: December 8
Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the solemn dogma defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854. As Our Lady Immaculately Conceived is the patroness of the United States of America, this is a holy day of obligation in the United States.
Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed on December 8, 1854: "The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." — Catechism of the Catholic Church
Today also marks the end of Celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes. From 8 December 2007 to 8 December 2008 Lourdes celebrated a Jubilee Year for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions at the Grotto of Massabielle.
On Our Journey of Advent there Shines the Star of Immaculate Mary
On the path of Advent shines the star of Mary Immaculate, "a sign of certain hope and comfort" (Lumen Gentium, n. 68). To reach Jesus, the true light, the sun that dispels all the darkness of history, we need light near us, human people who reflect Christ's light and thus illuminate the path to take. And what person is more luminous than Mary? Who can be a better star of hope for us than she, the dawn that announced the day of salvation? (cf. Spe Salvi, n. 49). For this reason, the liturgy has us celebrate today, as Christmas approaches, the Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: the mystery of God's grace that enfolded her from the first instant of her existence as the creature destined to be Mother of the Redeemer, preserving her from the stain of original sin. Looking at her, we recognize the loftiness and beauty of God's plan for everyone: to become holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1: 4), in the image of our Creator.
What a great gift to have Mary Immaculate as mother! A mother resplendent with beauty, the transparency of God's love. I am thinking of today's young people, who grow up in an environment saturated with messages that propose false models of happiness. These young men and women risk losing hope because they often seem orphans of true love, which fills life with true meaning and joy. This was a theme dear to my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II, who so often proposed Mary to the youth of our time as the "Mother of Fair Love". Unfortunately, numerous experiences tell us that adolescents, young people and even children easily fall prey to corrupt love, deceived by unscrupulous adults who, lying to themselves and to them, lure them into the deadends of consumerism; even the most sacred realities, like the human body, a temple of God's love and of life, thus become objects of consumption and this is happening earlier, even in pre-adolescence. How sad it is when youth lose the wonder, the enchantment of the most beautiful sentiments, the value of respect for the body, the manifestation of the person and his unfathomable mystery!
Immaculate, whom we contemplate in all her beauty and holiness, reminds us of
all this. From the Cross, Jesus entrusted her to John and to all the disciples
(cf. Jn 19: 27), and from that moment she has been the Mother of all humanity,
the Mother of hope. Let us address our prayer to her with faith, while we go in
spirit on pilgrimage to Lourdes where on this very day a special Jubilee Year
begins on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of her apparitions in the Grotto
of Massabielle. May Mary Immaculate, "Star of the Sea, shine upon us and guide
us on our way!" (Spe Salvi, n. 50).
— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address December 8, 2007
Immaculate Conception of Mary
"Tota pulchra es! O Mary, thou art all fair, unstained by original sin" (1st Ant. at Vespers; All.). This cry of admiration, which the Church puts on our lips, expresses the feelings of fallen man before the spotless purity of our Lady. From all eternity God had chosen Mary to be the Mother of the Word Incarnate; He therefore decked her in holiness, preserving her from all stain and making her a worthy dwelling for His Son. The Blessed Virgin's perfect redemption which, from the moment of her conception, preserved her from original sin cannot, therefore, be dissociated from our redemption by Christ; and so, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, coming in the course of Advent, heralds the splendours of the Incarnation of the Redeemer.
Pope Pius IX in his bull Ineffabilis Deus of December 8, 1854, declared the Immaculate Conception to be an infallible teaching of the Church as well as "a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful that the Blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception was, by a unique privilege and grace of Almighty God in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, preserved exempt from all stain of original sin." The stain of original sin was excluded from her soul, not removed from it. Many confuse the meaning of this dogma, thinking it refers to Mary's conception of the immaculate Jesus. That is the Incarnation, which we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25. This dogma of the Immaculate Conception, on the other hand, refers to St. Anne's conception of Our Immaculate Lady in her womb.
Patron: United States.
Symbols: crown and monogram; lily; enclosed garden; crown of stars; glass (symbol of purity) lily often placed in a vase of transparent glass; lily of the valley.
Things to Do:
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception lends itself to fruitful meditation and should be taught to children. The doctrine of original sin, the sin of Adam and its effects on the human race, is a good beginning for study. For the best explanation of the teachings of the Church on this, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 386-412. Also you might read Pope Piux IX's bull, Ubi Primum (On The Immaculate Conception) proclaiming the Immaculate Conception as a dogma of Faith. Other reading from the Catholic Culture Library:
On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Marialis Cultus) by Pope Paul VI;
Immaculate Conception Defined by Pius IX by Pope John Paul II;
John Duns Scotus: Champion of the Immaculate Conception by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.;
The Message of the Virgin of Lourdes by Bishop Donald Montrose, D.D.;
The Immaculate Conception by Abbot Gueranger
Mary as the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States. Visit or take a virtual tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, America's patronal church.
This day would also be appropriate for parents to plan their approach on family sex education, as it is the privilege and duty of parents to teach their own children in this area.
Make a Mary candle for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. See Celebrating for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception for details and other ideas.
Prepare an all white meal for dinner and then discuss with your children the dogma of the Immaculate Conception with the visual aids of dinner showing the purity and the stainlessness of Mary's soul. Read Teaching the Immaculate Conception and Advent and the Immaculate Conception for discussion ideas.
The special treat for this feast is Moravian Spritz, or gingerbread cookies, loaded with fine, aromatic spices. These are mixed on the vigil, December 7. Or make your favorite gingerbread cookie. Perhaps for this solemnity the family could make a gingerbread house or Gingerbread Bowls.
Today, plant an Immaculate Conception Rose Bush. During this winter season, it is also a good time to plan a Mary Garden. Flower Theology by John Stokes, the website Mary's Gardens and the book Mary's Flowers, Gardens, Legends and Meditations by Mary's Gardens Associate, Vincenzina Krymow, are good beginnings for planning your garden.
No room for a garden? No time to nurture nature? Read Flowers for the Fairest by Daniel Foley to read about flowers appropriate for Our Lady, and purchase a small bouquet or a few flowers...real or silk to display for feasts of Mary.
Read more....Advent and The Immaculate Conception