During Advent, as we prepare for the birth of Christ at Christmas, we also celebrate one of the great feasts of the Catholic Church. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8) is not only a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary but a foretaste of our own redemption. It is such an important feast that the Church has declared the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception a Holy Day of Obligation.
In keeping the Blessed Virgin free from the stain of sin from the moment of her conception, God presents us with a glorious example of what mankind was meant to be. Mary is truly the second Eve, because, like Eve, she entered the world without sin. Unlike Eve, she remained sinless throughout her life--a life that she dedicated fully to the will of God. The Eastern Fathers of the Church referred to her as "without stain" (a phrase that appears frequently in the Eastern liturgies and hymns to Mary); in Latin, that phrase is immaculatus: "immaculate."
The Immaculate Conception was not, as many people believe, a precondition for Christ's act of redemption but the result of it. Standing outside of time, God knew that Mary would humbly submit herself to His will, and in His love for this perfect servant, He applied to her at the moment of her conception the redemption, won by Christ, that all Christians receive at their Baptism.
It is appropriate, then, that the Church has long declared the month in which the Blessed Virgin not only was conceived but gave birth to the Savior of the world as the Month of the Immaculate Conception.
(A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she appeared at Lourdes, France, in 1858, where she announced, "I am the Immaculate Conception." Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama. Photo © Scott P. Richert)
More on the Immaculate Conception:
- What Is the Immaculate Conception?
- The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
- When Is Immaculate Conception 2012?
- Is Immaculate Conception a Holy Day of Obligation?
- Prayers for December: The Month of the Immaculate Conception
- Prayer of Pope Pius XII in Honor of the Immaculate Conception
- Prayer to the Virgin Immaculate
- Wordless Wednesday: I Am the Immaculate Conception