Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – December 9, 2013
This year, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception will be celebrated on Monday, December 9 due to the fact that December 8 was an Advent Sunday this year.
On December 8, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The Catholic belief that Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her existence was promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
While Marian devotion remains strong in the church, the Immaculate Conception is a complex concept that has interested theologians more than the ordinary faithful. Many people still wrongly assume that the Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Christ. In fact, it refers to the belief that Mary, by special divine favor, was without sin from the moment she was conceived. The main stumbling block for many Catholics is original sin. Today we are simply less and less aware of original sin. And without that awareness, the Immaculate Conception makes no sense.
The late American Bishop Fulton Sheen put it another way in 1974, speaking about the loss of the sense of sin. Sheen said: “It used to be that the Catholics were the only ones to believe in the Immaculate Conception. Now everyone believes he is the immaculately conceived.”
Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma in 1854, but the idea that Mary was born without the stain of sin did not appear out of the blue. It took shape after a long and complicated theological debate that, in some respects, still continues. Already in the earliest Christian times Mary was held to be an ideal model of holiness, and by the eighth century Eastern Christians were celebrating a feast in honor of Mary’s conception. [Read more...]