The feast of the Immaculate Conception was recently celebrated on December 8th, so here are 8 things you need to know about this important teaching of the Catholic Church.
1.) This Refers to Mary’s Conception
Many erroneously believe that this feast day refers to Jesus’ conception by the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is not the case.
On December 8th, Catholics around the world will celebrate Mary’s conception by her mother Anne, and the special graces God endowed on the child in her womb. The conception of Mary was not virginal like Jesus’ was, but God allowed Mary to be free from Original Sin.
2.) The Doctrine is Filled with Grace, Just like Mary
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is filled with the grace of God as He specially redeemed her from the moment of conception, to remain pure from the stain of Original Sin.
This means that rather than being redeemed after her birth at Baptism and struggling throughout her life with the stains of Original Sin like we all do, Mary was set apart by God from the moment she was created.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.”
Through the centuries, the Church has developed her doctrine on this matter. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 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.”
3.) Mary Never Sinned
This dogma asserts that if Mary was kept from all the stains of Original Sin, she never sinned. In the Eastern Church, she is called Panagia or “All-Holy” in reference to this aspect of Mariology (the theological study of Mary).
The way redemption was applied to Mary at the moment of her conception, means that she not only was protected from contracting Original Sin, but also personal sin. The Catechism explains that by the grace of God “Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.”
4.) To Be Christ’s Mother, Mary Became Pure
The Church speaks of the Immaculate Conception as something that made Mary a suitable dwelling for the Son of God.
Pope Pius IX stated in his declaration of dogma that “the Blessed Virgin was, through grace, entirely free from every stain of sin, and from all corruption of body, soul and mind; that she was always united with God and joined to him by an eternal covenant; that she was never in darkness but always in light; and that, therefore, she was entirely a fit habitation for Christ, not because of the state of her body, but because of her original grace.”
Mary needed to be pure to be the Mother of the Son of the Most High. Mary should only share the nature of mankind. She should not share its common injuries brought on by the sin of Adam and Eve.
5.) Mary is the New Eve
Adam and Eve were both created immaculate without Original Sin. They fell from grace, and through them mankind was bound to sin.
Christ and Mary were also conceived immaculate. They remained faithful to God’s will, and through them mankind was redeemed from sin. So, Christ is the New Adam, and Mary is the New Eve.
As St. Irenaeus says that the “knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”
6.) Mary is the Co-Redemptrix
Catholic Popes have often referred to Mary as “Co-redemptrix,” “The Gate of Heaven,” “Advocate,” and “Mediatrix.”
This is in reference to her cooperative role in the work of salvation. The official Catholic stance is that Mary’s elevated status “neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.” Mary simply adds a level of intercessory prayer where she makes perfect our petitions and begins them to her Son.
7.) The Feast is a Holy Day of Obligation
In the Roman rite of the Catholic Church, December 8th is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. In the United States and in a number of other countries, it is a holy day of obligation.
When December 8th falls on Saturday, the precept of attending Mass is still observed in the United States, even though it will mean going to Mass two days in a row (since every Sunday is also a holy day of obligation).
8.) You Should Celebrate Its Importance
There are many ways that you can honor the Blessed Virgin Mary by celebrating her Immaculate Conception:
- Wear your Miraculous Medal and recite the prayers associated with the devotion.
- Make your soul clean and pure like Mary’s and go to Confession.
- Invoke the intercession of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents who conceived Mary immaculately by the grace of God.
- Visit The Station of the Cross for more authentically Catholic media content and listen to this episode of Sermons for Everyday Living which explains the power of the Immaculate Conception.
Our Lady the Immaculate Conception, Pray for Us!