What is the Immaculate Conception-
What is The Immaculate Conception? Catholics have been confused about this for a while. To some they think it means it is the conception of out Lord, Jesus, by the Holy Spirit into the womb of Blessed Virgin Mary. That feast is celebrated in March, six months before Christmas and is known as The Annunciation.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is often confused with her virginal conception of Jesus. The feast day being 17 days prior to Christmas should make it obvious to people that it is not true. As Catholics we believe that Mary was conceived by the normal means, through her parents Saint Anne and Saint Joachim.
In ancient times, the man was believed as being the one who was responsible for the start of a pregnancy. The role of the woman was to nurture the embyryo that was growing in her womb. In time it was determined both the woman and man contributed to genetic information to the production of the offspring.
With the woman's role in conception discovered, the Church had to define Mary's role. For the first time, Mary was seen to play a direct role in Jesus' conception. Her contribution would have been expected to pass original sin onto Jesus an act not believed by the Church because it taught that Jesus was born without sin at his birth
Mary, like all descendants of Adam and Eve was subjected to the necessity of being born with original sin. But by God's intervention he kept her free from original sin to ensure that original sin would not be pasted on to Jesus. This has never been the teaching of the Church, rather the Immaculate Conception represents God's saving grace in Mary to preserve her to be the Mother of his only begotten son- Jesus.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read "The splendor of an entirely unique holiness" by which Mary is "enriched from the first instant of her conception" comes wholly from Christ: she is "redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son".136 The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person "in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" and chose her "in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love"
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
- Around 1854 Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception a dogma of the Church, which means that all Christians are bound to accept it as true. He wrote the following- "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."
- That Mary was filled with divine grace from the time of her conception. The belief is supported in Luke 1:28 "And the angel came unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women." A translation of the angel's statement is "Rejoice, you who have been graced." This implies to us that Mary received grace at some time earlier in her life.
- Mary's preservation from sin was necessary in order for her to give birth later to Jesus without passing original sin to him.
- Partly based on her Immaculate Conception, Mary is considered the Mother of the Roman Catholic Church and to all her people.
How the Feast came to be- In the Eastern church in the seventh century the feast was more toward Saint Anne and was called the Conception of Mary. In the eighth century it became a feast in the Roman catholic Church. From there it spread to England, France, Germany and finally to Rome.
In the eleventh century a move to declare Mary's conception as Immaculate came to be. Pope Sixtus IV in the fifteenth century while promoting the feast, tolerated those people who came to call it the 'Immaculate Conception'
Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, was the one who pronounced that the blessed Virgin Mary was preserved by God, from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception.
Appearance of The Immaculate Conception
Then four years after Pope Pius IX 's pronouncement in 1858 in Lourdes, a young girl about 14 years old named Bernadette Soubirous, claimed a beautiful lady had visited her. The lady identified herself to Bernadette and said 'I am the Immaculate Conception'.
We sing a beautiful hymn in church called 'Immaculate Mary' or 'The Lourdes Hymn' . It is a wonderful song in honor of our lady and also her visit to St. Bernadette.
Prayer to the Immaculate Conception
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for thy Son,
we beseech thee that, as by the foreseen death of this,
thy Son, thou didst preserve her from all stain,
so too thou wouldst permit us,
purified through her intercession, to come unto thee.
Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son,
who livest and reignest with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
God, world without end.