The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, is a Catholic observance that happens on December 8. The Immaculate Conception celebrates the belief that Mary was conceived free of original sin, and as such, it is commemorated nine months before Mary's birth date on September 8. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is one of the most important feasts celebrated by the Catholic Church.
Many people confuse this holiday with the Feast of Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she was carrying the son of God, but that holiday takes place nine months before Christmas, on March 25.
There are records of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception being celebrated in Syria by the Eastern Christian Church as early as the 5th century. It was originally observed on December 9. The commemoration spread to the West in the 8th century, where the Western Church changed the day of the observance to December 8.
In 1708, Pope Clement XI designated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception as a Holy Day of Obligation, as it has remained until today. in 1854, Pope Pius IX released the Apostolic constitution Ineffabilies Deus, formally defining the dogma for this holiday, and reinforcing its importance in the Catholic Church.
What was the Immaculate Conception?
The Catholic belief around the conception of the Virgin Mary is that her parents, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim, were infertile and prayed to God for a child. God answered their prayers, and Mary was conceived free of sin and without intercourse. The original sin is the doctrine that every human being is born with sin inherited from Adam.
This belief means that by being born through the Grace of God, Mary was given singular grace and privilege, and by carrying Jesus Christ she is the Saviour of the human race, free from any original and personal sin.
How to observe the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Like in many other countries, December 8 is a holy day of obligation in the United States. This means that it is mandatory for all Catholics to attend Mass on that day. Special services and prayers are held on that day, in honor of the Immaculate Conception.
- If December 8 falls on a Saturday or Monday, there is still a service and people are still expected to observe Mass on Sunday, meaning that they will have to attend Mass two days in a row.