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The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
[Patronal Feastday of the United States of America]
Solemnity
December 8th
(December 9th when the 8th falls on a Sunday,
If the 8th is on a Monday it is still a Holy Day of Obligation but if moved to Monday it is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States.. click here to read more about Holy Days)


Jean Bellegambe
Saint Anne conceiving the Virgin Mary

Douai, Musée de la Chartreuse
VIS Link -- Plenary Indulgence for Solemnity Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2005
History - Catechism | Pope Benedict XVI - address 12/08/2009 | Magnificat | Prayers - Readings | Family Celebration | Homily:Why the Immaculate Conception | Pope John Paul II's Homily at Lourdes - August 15, 2004 | WFF's Family Sourcebook for Advent and Christmas | Fulgens Corona, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Proclaiming a Marian Year to Commemorate the Centenary of the Definition of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, September 8, 1953, [links to Vatican Website] | Ineffabilis Deus - Pope Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, November 1, 1950 [links to Vatican Website] | AD DIEM ILLUM LAETISSIMUM, Encyclical of Pope Pius X on the Immaculate Conception, February 2, 1904 [links to Vatican Website] | Pius IX, Apostolic Constitution of the Immaculate Conception, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854
Prayer of Pope John Paul II
December 8, 2003 Queen of peace, pray for us! Our gaze is directed toward you in great fear, to you do we turn with ever-more insistent faith in these times marked by many uncertainties and fears for the present and future of our planet.
Together we lift our confident and sorrowful petition to you, the first fruit of humanity redeemed by Christ, finally freed from the slavery of evil and sin: hear the cry of the pain of victims of war and so many forms of violence that bloody the earth. Clear away the darkness of sorrow and worry, of hate and vengeance. Open up our minds and hearts to faith and forgiveness!
Mother of mercy and hope:.
Help every human being of every race and culture to find and embrace Jesus, who came to earth in the mystery of Christmas to give us 'His' peace.
Mary, Queen of peace, give us Christ, true peace in the world!

 

History

The Immaculate Conception, a solemnity, is the patronal feast of the United States. It is one of the few Holy days of obligation on the Church calendar -- that is, all Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on this day. As this feast occurs early in Advent, it is a perfect time to consider Mary and her important role in the celebration of Christmas.

In 1854, Pope Pius IX's solemn declaration, Ineffabilis Deus, clarified with finality the long-held belief of the Church that Mary was conceived free from original sin. In proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a dogma of the Church, the pope expressed precisely and clearly that Mary was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This privilege of Mary derives from God's having chosen her as Mother of the Savior; thus she received the benefits of salvation in Christ from the very moment of her conception. (The picture above shows her mother, Anna, with the infant Mary within her womb.) This great gift to Mary, an ordinary human being just like us, was fitting because she was destined to be Mother of God. The purity and holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a model for all Christians.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of the Immaculate Conception of Mary:

490. To become the mother of the Savior, Mary "was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role". The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as "full of grace". In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace.

491. Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, "full of grace" through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1844:

"The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, 1854.)

492. 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." 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."

493. The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God "the All-Holy" (Panagia) and celebrate her as "free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature". By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.

For more on the role of Mary in Salvation History, read the entire section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§ 456-511.

***

Pope Benedict XVI - address 12/08/2009
VATICAN

Pope: “Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil,” Mary tells people of our times
In his tribute to the statue of the Immaculata in Piazza di Spagna, Benedict XVI outlines the city’s problems: the evil told and amplified by the media, the indifference and lack of respect for people, the lack of responsibility that makes us spectators of evil. Mary’s presence means Jesus has defeated evil and “makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.” The Pope thanks all those who respond to evil doing good rather complaining or recriminating.

Here is Benedict XVI’s full address:

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. In her self-effacing style, she gives everyone peace and hope during the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or the walls of buildings, a painting, mosaic or a statue stand as a remainder of the Mother’s presence, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary stands high, on guard over Rome.

What does Mary tell the city? What does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom., 5:20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil, uprooted it, freeing us from his rule.

When do we need such good deeds? Every day, in the newspapers, television and radio, evil is told to us, said again, amplified, so that we get used to the most horrible things, and become desensitised. In a certain way, it poisons us, because the negative is never fully cleansed out of our system but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary, whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of Grace’s victory over sin and makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.

Those who invisible live or rather survive in the city. They make it to the front page of newspapers or the top of TV newscast—they are exploited until the end, for as long as the news and the images are newsworthy. Few can resist such a perverse mechanism. The city first, hides then exposes them to public scrutiny, without pity or with false pity. Everyone would like to be accepted as a person and considered as something sacred, because each human story is a sacred story that deserves the utmost of respect.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city! Each one of us contributes with our lives to its moral climate for better or worse. The border between good and evil runs across everyone’s heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Instead, each one of us must feel duty-bound to improve ourselves. Mass media make us feel like “spectators” as if evil only touched others and that certain things could not happen to us. Instead, we are all “actors” for better or worse, and our behaviour influences others.

We often complain about air pollution, that in some parts of the city the air is unbreathable. That is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. However, there is another kind of pollution, which the senses cannot easily perceive, but which is equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes us gloomier, less likely to greet one another or look into each other face . . .

The city has many faces, but sadly, collective factors lead us to forget what is behind them. All we see is the surface. People become bodies, and these bodies lose their soul, become faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.

Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. “[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.”

I want to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, in deeds not in words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of love which drivers the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome. They do not make the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who realise that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating; that it is better to respond to evil doing good; to changes things; or better, to changes people, hence improve society.”

Dear Roman friends and all of you who live in this city! Whilst we are busy in everyday tasks, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more, first in our hearts, and then in our lives! Thus, the city shall be more beautiful, more Christian and more humane.

Thank you, Holy Mother, for this message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!

***

The Magnificat
Luke 1: 46-55 (Douay translation)
My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
Because he hath regarded the humility of
his handmaid; for behold from henceforth
all generations shall call me blessed.
Because he that is mighty hath done great
things to me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is from generation unto
generations, to them that fear him.
He hath shewed might with his arm; he
hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their
seat, and hath exalted the humble.
He hath filled the hungry with good
things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel his servant, being
mindful of his mercy:
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham
and to his seed for ever.

Readings for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Antiphon

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation,
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bride adorned with her jewels.

Collect

O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin
prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son,
grant, we pray,
that, as you preserved her from every stain
by virtue of the Death of your Son, which you foresaw,
so, through her intercession,
we, too, may be cleansed and admitted to your presences.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
+Amen.

Scripture

First Reading - Genesis 3: 9-15, 20
After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him, "Where are you?" He asked. "I heard the sound of You in the garden," he replied. "I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid." "Who told you that you were naked?" He asked. "Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?" The man replied, "It was the woman You put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it." Then the Lord God asked the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman replied, "The serpent tempted me and I ate."

Then the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Be accursed beyond all cattle, and wild beasts. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel."

The man named his wife 'Eve' because she was the mother of all those who live.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

O sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

The LORD has made known his victory,
he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love
and faithfulness to the house of Israel.

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
Make a joyful noise to the LORD,
all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!

R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Second Reading - Ephesians 1: 3-6,11-12

Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, He chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in His presence, determining that we should become His adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for His own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of His grace, His free gift to us in the Beloved. And it is in Him that we were claimed as God's own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the One who guides all things as He decides by His own will; chosen to be, for His greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before He came.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.

And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no husband?"

And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren, for with God nothing will be impossible." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (RSV-CE translation)

Devotional Reading

Why the Immaculate Conception?, a homily by Father Paul Mankowski, SJ, presented at Women for Faith & Family's Immaculate Conception Mass and festival held at St. Roch's Church in St. Louis, December 8, 1989.


Family celebration of the Immaculate Conception

Mary's Candle

An especially appealing project for this Solemnity of Mary is to make a special candle. This candle can be made by attaching a picture or figure of the Infant Jesus to the base of a large pillar-type candle. You might carve a little niche for a tiny figure in the wax. The figure is then veiled (a piece of cloth fastened with pins) until Christmas Eve, when the veil is removed to reveal the Holy Child. On the Immaculate Conception, and every evening until Christmas Eve, have the children light "Mary's candle" when they say their prayers, and say the Hail Mary, or read with them her prayer, called the Magnificat (above).

Rose for Mary

It would also be appropriate to have children place a rose before a picture or image of the Blessed Virgin Mary on this day.

Special Prayers

The Collect for this feast (above), and the Angelus can be added to the mealtime prayers for Advent at the evening meal, or for family prayers before bedtime.
(Angelus - Spanish Version)

See also WFF's Family Sourcebook for Advent and Christmas



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