People who go to Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary may not know the exact reason for this important holy day of obligation, officially observed on Dec. 8. Even the most observant Catholics sometimes mistakenly believe the feast day commemorates Mary conceiving Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Actually, it celebrates Mary being conceived without sin by St. Anne, her mother. Mary’s conception of Jesus is celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation, which is March 25.
Being conceived without the stain of original sin signified Mary’s future role as the mother of God’s own son. Mary’s Immaculate Conception was celebrated for many centuries before Pope Pius IX declared it an official dogma of the Church through his apostolic constitution “Ineffabilis Deus”, issued on Dec. 8, 1854.
“… 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 merit of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin,” he wrote.
Image: Immaculate Conception; Peter Paul Rubens, circa 1628