The Immaculate Conception of Mary
(Celebrated 8 December, Holy Day of Obligation)

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The Immaculate Conception - by ZURBARÁN, Francisco de - from the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest


Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. Upon arriving, the angel said to her: "Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women." She was deeply troubled by his words, and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her: "Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God. You shall conceive and bear a Son and give Him the name Jesus. Great will be His dignity and He will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and His reign will be without end."

Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know man?" The angel answered her: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the Holy Offspring to be born will be called Son of God. Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God."

Mary said: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." With that the angel left her.


The Immaculate Conception of Mary

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The Humility of Mary - by Albrecht Dürer

This feast was established for the universal Church by Pope Pius IX when he proclaimed that from all eternity, the Triune Divinity chose the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the tabernacle of the Son of God. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception proclaimed once and for all that it was unthinkable that Mary be defiled in any way by sin in any manner whatsoever. Thus, in that infinitesimal second that God created Mary (in the womb of Saint Anne), He made her Immaculate. This grace, like all other graces since Adam and Eve's fall, was given to Mary through the merits of her Divine Son Jesus. IC2.jpg (37280 bytes) She stood alone as one free of the stain of original sin, redeemed not from the evil already present at birth, but from any evil that threatened this sacred temple known as the Mother of God. This was confirmed in the infallible words of Pius IX,"The most holy Virgin Mary was, in the first moment of her conception, by a unique gift of grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of mankind, preserved free from all stain of original sin."

Saint Ephrem first held this belief in the fourth century. Seven centuries later the crusaders brought this belief back to the Western Church from the Eastern Church in the Holy Land where, since 750 A.D., it had been celebrated on December 9 along with the feast of Saint Anne who had conceived the Blessed Mother in her womb. In 1050 A.D. a feast honoring Mary's conception was offered by Pope Leo IX. In the twelfth century the Franciscan Father Duns Scotus defended the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and was listed in the Roman Calendar in the year 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. In 1708 Pope Clement XI made the Conception of Our Lady a feast of obligation. Nearly 150 years later in 1854, Pius IX proclaimed it the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This interestingly followed the lead of the United States Bishops eight years earlier who had decreed in 1846 that the U.S. was consecrated to Mary's Immaculate Conception and assigned December 8 as the official feast of their Heavenly patron. Four years after flag_mary.gif (4039 bytes)Pius IX's infallible pronouncement, Our Lady herself confirmed this dogma at Lourdes when she proclaimed to the visionary Saint Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception."


Doctrinal Treatises on the Immaculate Conception

by Father Langton D. Fox, D.D.

by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.

by Saint Alphonsus Liguori