Wednesday, 07 December 2011 11:14
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception which is celebrated every December 8 of the year is a holy day of obligation for Roman Catholics around the world.
The Philippines, the only Catholic country in Asia, observes the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with solemnity.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the patron saint of the Philippines. Numerous churches across the archipelago are named after the Blessed Mother.
In the revised Catholic calendar, aside from Sunday, there are only three days throughout the year that are considered as holy day of obligations -- New Year, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas. For Catholics hearing Mass is mandatory like Sunday.
Before the revision, the holy days of obligation included January 6, Feast of the Three Kings, February 2, Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, March 19, Feast of St. Joseph, June 29, Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Mother to Heaven, and November 1, All Saints Day.
The Immaculate Conception is a dogma that the Blessed Virgin Mary was born without Original Sin, the only one exempted by God.
However, “few doctrines of the Catholic Church are as misunderstood as the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Many people, including many Catholics, think that it refers to the conception of Christ through the action of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That event, though, is celebrated at the feast of the Annunciation of the Lord (March 25, nine months before Christmas). What is the Immaculate Conception?”
“The Immaculate Conception refers to the condition that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from Original Sin from the very moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne,” the Catholic dogma states.
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on September 8 which is exactly nine months before December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Fr. John Hardon, S.J., in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, said that: "Neither the Greek nor Latin Fathers explicitly taught the Immaculate Conception, but they professed it implicitly."
Many centuries had passed before the Catholic Church recognized the Immaculate Conception as a doctrine. It was during the papacy of Pope Pius IX that the Immaculate Conception was declared as a dogma on December 8, 1854.
In the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, Pope Pius IX wrote that "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."
Father Hardon said that the Blessed Virgin's "freedom from sin was an unmerited gift of God or special grace, and an exception to the law, or privilege, which no other created person has received."
Another misconception people have is that Mary's Immaculate Conception was necessary to ensure that Original Sin would not be passed on to Christ. This has never been a part of the teaching on the Immaculate Conception; rather, the Immaculate Conception represents Christ's saving grace operating in Mary in anticipation of His redemption of man and in God's foreknowledge of Mary's acceptance of His Will for her,” the Catholic Dogma says.
“In other words, the Immaculate Conception was not a precondition for Christ's act of redemption but the result of it. It is the concrete expression of God's love for Mary, who gave herself fully, completely, and without hesitation to His service,” it added.
The history of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception dates back to the seventh century, when churches in the East began celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Saint Anne, mother of Mary.
In the doctrine of the Catholic Church, Mary was free from Original Sin at the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, thus making her “immaculate” every faithful must firmly believe.
By Ben Cal
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