Mystery of the Immaculate Conception: What you didn’t know about this church feast day

Somehow, over generations, cultures, and 2,000 years, men and women have maintained an unwavering devotion and curious affinity for Mary, the Virgin Mother of God.

Dec. 8 is celebrated around the globe as one of the most notable Marian Feasts: The Feast of The Immaculate Conception. This feast day also causes some confusion, even among avid churchgoers.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the conception of Mary, the Mother of God, because she was conceived without original sin on her soul. Given the significance of this event, it is declared a Holy Day of Obligation in the church, meaning the faithful are required to attend Mass.

But what is this day really about, and why is it so significant to the church?

Celebrated exactly nine months before Sept. 8, the date customarily acknowledged as Mary’s birthday, the Immaculate Conception is accepted as the day the Mother of God was conceived.

As an official church feast day, its historical origins are ancient. The first celebrations of Mary’s Immaculate Conception were from the Eastern Christian Church as early as the fifth century. By the seventh century, the feast was widely celebrated and accepted by the faithful.

The mystery of the Immaculate Conception was not accepted as church dogma until much later. Pope Pius IX in 1854 introduced this universal acceptance of the feast day. He declared, “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 savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.”

Long before this infallible declaration by the papacy, the faithful believed in her purity and even perfect soul. This celebration of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a beloved and noteworthy example of God’s love and the beginning of his divine plan to come into the world as one of us.

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