Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Patronal Feast of the United States…
On December 8th, we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. You will not find the story of the Immaculate Conception in Scripture – it comes purely from Tradition. However, the roots of this doctrine begin in Luke 1:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus… Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. -Luke 1:26-38, NAB
So, then, is the feast of the Immaculate Conception a celebration of Jesus’ conception? No. Many Catholics confuse this. We actually celebrate Jesus’ conception, and the story from this verse, on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. This falls on March 25th – nine months before we celebrate Christ’s birth (Christmas).
If we are not celebrating Christ’s conception, what are we celebrating? Mary’s conception. Sacred Tradition tells us that God prepared Mary to be the Mother of Jesus. She had to be pure; therefore, God redeemed her when she was conceived. He did this because He knew the story of Luke 1 long before it happened.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holy day of obligation. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that you must go to Mass. It is an obligation like a normal Sunday would be. It began with services last night and continues through today. And no, a Saturday evening Mass does not count; it counts for Sunday. So yes, because this feast falls on a Saturday this year (2012), you must go to Mass twice this weekend.
The Catholic Church in the United States considers this feast to be so important that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the patronal feast of the United States. And, the Church as a whole devotes the entire month of December to the Immaculate Conception. These devotions should show us how important this feast really is.
Take time to enjoy this feast and reflect on the Mother of our Savior. Later this month, we will be celebrating the birth of Christ, but that required Mary’s full devotion and freedom from sin. Mary’s redemption at conception eventually led to our redemption at the cross through her Son. Mary, our Mother, was truly blessed, and through her Son, so are we.