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MAIN Arrow to Home LifeHolidays & Observances Arrow to Feast of the Assumption Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Assunta, by Titian
Renaissance paintings of the Immaculate
Conception, as shown here by Bartolomé
Esteban Murillo, usually depict Mary as
a young virgin, without original sin, as
befitting the mother of Jesus Christ.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated every year on December 8.

It is designated a holy day of obligation when all Roman Catholics are required to attend mass.

This year, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is observed on Sunday, December 8, 2024.

Because the day falls on a Sunday this year, the iturgical celebration of the Immaculate Conception is transferred to the next day (Monday), but the obligation is not reassigned.

For the faithful, that means mass attendance on Sunday is acceptable with no obligation to attend mass again on Monday.

Immaculate Conception and church history

Immaculate conception -- or the idea that Mary was born without original sin -- dates back to the early church.

What was simply known as the Feast of the Conception (celebrating St Anne's having conceived her daughter, Mary) led to the belief that Mary herself must have been born without original sin in order to give birth to Jesus Christ.

The popular (though not then official) doctrine became a flash point in the Middle Ages, when religious thinkers of the day argued that the singular exemption -- of being born without original sin -- could only apply to the savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As the veneration of Mary grew, however, the church teaching slowly gained widespread acceptance. By the 19th century, it was Pius IX who finally declared that the Immaculate Conception was Catholic dogma and was to be firmly believed in as such.

Assunta, by Titian
Stained glass depiction of Mary at the grotto
in Lourdes: "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The Papal encyclical "Ineffabilis Deus" was dated December 8, 1854. "The most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin."

A few years later, Bernadette of Lourdes helped further define the doctrine when Mary was said to have miraculously appeared before her in 1858. When Bernadette asked the lady her name, Our Lady of Lourdes replied, "I am the Immaculate Conception."

The statement immediately caused controversy as the poor peasant girl was first cross-examined by local police, and then by papal authorities.

But throughout her ordeal, Bernadette never wavered in her account.

The Immaculate Conception was further solidified as church dogma when the church declared Bernadette a saint in 1933.

also see in Holidays & Observances -> Feast of the Assumption

Immaculate Conception -- and a modern misconception

Today, it is interesting to note that "Immaculate Conception" is often confused with another Church teaching -- that Mary conceived her son Jesus solely through the power of the Holy Spirit.

That doctrine, however, is more accurately known as the Virgin Birth based on the narratives found in the Gospel accounts of Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38.

The Immaculate Conception rather more accurately refers to the conception of Mary in the womb of her own mother, St. Anne, who provided a "fit habitation" for the blessed soul who was destined to become the mother of Christ and the new Eve.

How the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated around the world

Purisima en León
In Nicaragua, colorful processions and
fireworks mark the eve of Feast of the
Immaculate Conception.

Throughout the Christian world the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is observed with a celebration and solemnity.

In Nicaragua, December 8th is celebrated with local parades and religious processions, while in Panama the feast day coincides with the observance of Mother's Day.

Every year, the Philippines observes December 8th as a national holiday in honor of the Virgin Mary as patroness of the country.

In Monaco, grandmothers and mothers are honored with food and family festivities.

In Italy, the Pope traditionally visits the Column of the Immaculate Conception in Piazza di Spagna to offer prayers and a spray of roses at the statue's base. The day also signals the unofficial start of the Italian Christmas season.

More about the Feast of the Immaculate Conception around the Web:

Immaculate Conception
- Find a clear concise definition of the Roman Catholic doctrine including illustrations and related references from

Immaculate Conception - Here's more from the Catholic Encyclopedia with detailed information on the Catholic dogma including scriptural references, related controversies, and eventual acceptance in Church doctrine.


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