A very important pillar of Catholic teaching is celebrated on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. There is a popular idea that the day refers to the conception of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. It doesn’t. As a matter of fact, it is actually the conception of Mary herself that is referred to here. Although she was born in the natural biological manner, her conception is believed to be “immaculate” by Catholics because God intervened, relieving Mary of original sin.
The day is also known as the ‘Holy Day of Obligation’ and is celebrated with a Holy Mass. In addition, the day is celebrated with family meals, processions, and parades dedicated to the Virgin Mary’s honor. However, the day is not to be confused with the Annunciation of the Lord — the celebration of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary and her willingness to accept the conception of Jesus Christ in her womb.
History of Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception Day or The Feast of the Immaculate Conception can be traced back to the 5th century when it was first introduced in Syria. This holiday was already a big part of the traditions that defined Eastern Christianity by the seventh century. Although the idea of Immaculate Conception is firmly rooted in Christian tradition and rarely observed in other religions, there has been some debate over what the term really means.
For centuries, theological dispute surrounded the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The argument followed the context of the word ‘immaculate,’ which refers to the belief that Mary — the mother of Jesus Christ, was herself conceived without original sin.
Throughout Christian history, the Immaculate Conception has been questioned by theologians. This topic remained open for debate until December 8, 1854, when Pope Pius IX declared it to be an essential principle of faith in the Catholic Church. The written statement on this is titled Ineffabilis Deus, which clarifies the importance of the divine concept of Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church.
Many churches, particularly the Catholic Church, hold masses or special services to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on or around December 8. Those that commemorate this holiday always prepare for it prior to its occurrence. In Rome, at the base of the Colonna della Immacolata; which stands at 12-meters tall by the statue of the Virgin Mary, the pope places a wreath. Members of the fire service hang a floral wreath on the arm of the statue.
While some people prefer to host dinners at home for their families, there are several other celebrations as well, creating a festive feel in the streets.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a public holiday in many countries. In Guam, it is also known as ‘Our Lady of Camarin Day,’ honoring a small wooden statue which is known as Santa Marian Kamalen or ‘Our Lady of Camarin.’ A procession is then followed by people who pray and honor Jesus Christ through his mother, Mary.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception timeline
The first reference to Mary's mother, Anne, appears in the Gospel of James, which also tells of Mary's immaculate conception.
The Eastern Christian Church celebrates a 'Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God' on December 9 in Syria.
The feast is transferred to the Western Church and begins to be celebrated on December 8.
The church divides itself into Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is intensely debated among Franciscans and Dominicans, most notably St. Thomas Aquinas.
The feast is first celebrated as ‘Holy Day of Obligation’ by Pope Clement XI.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is officially marked as a holy day by Pope Pius IX.
The statue of Santa Marian Kamalen in the Agana Cathedral Basilica is taken down, groomed, and carried on a cart through the capital of Guam.
President Duterte of the Philippines declares December 8 as a non-working special holiday in the whole country.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception FAQs
What is the meaning of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception?
The Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary’s conception without sin.
Is Immaculate Conception in the Bible?
The sacred texts do not explicitly mention the Immaculate Conception of Mary, but there are biblical texts to support this divine tradition.
What was Jesus' conception called?
It is often mistaken that the Immaculate Conception is referring to the birth of Jesus, whereas the event of his conception is called ‘The virgin birth.’
How To Celebrate Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Go to a Mass
Make Mass a part of your observance of the feast holiday! Have your teenagers listen carefully for references to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Make a Mary candle
This is a great day to make a Mary candle. You’ll need a tall white pillar candle. Use decorations of symbols of the Christ for it and then cover it with white lace or fabric for the remainder of Advent. The white cloth represents mother Mary while the candle represents Jesus Christ.
Attend a parade
After mass, it’s common for devotees to attend parades and processions on Immaculate Conception Day. This is a wonderful way to connect with your community.
5 Facts About Feast Of The Immaculate Conception
Teachings are mostly based on tradition
The Roman Catholic Church has based the concept of the Immaculate Conception on tradition along with some passages from the Scripture.
The Immaculate Conception is necessary
As the mother of Christ - the Redeemer, Mary needed to be pure from sin, and was given that privilege by God.
Two areas of conflict
Protestants claim that only Jesus was sinless, and some believe that Mary mothered children before giving birth to Jesus. On the other hand, Catholic tradition teaches that she was completely sinless and therefore a virgin. These two schools of thought have long been areas of conflict.
She was a teenage mother
She was 12 years old when she was engaged to Joseph and 13 when she gave birth to Jesus.
She’s an important figure in Islam too
Mary is known as Maryam in Islam.
Why Feast of the Immaculate Conception is Important
A part of the holiday season
The whole month of December marks the festive season of Christmas- the birth of Christ. Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a part of the holiday traditions and ties in well with the spirit of Christmas.
It honors the mother of Christ
Even though a lot of controversy surrounds Mary in the history of religion, there is no doubt that Mary was a courageous woman, and devoted to the teachings of Christ. Her character was pure and pious, and it is extremely important that we honor her on this day.
Celebrating with family
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception brings with it feelings of love and safety as we commemorate the mother of Christ. We love holidays that give family and friends a chance to get together and be grateful for all of our blessings.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception dates