|Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception|
|Observed by||Roman Catholic Church|
|Significance||Belief in the most pure and sinless conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary without Original Sin|
|Celebrations||Festive pageantry, grand fireworks, cultural dancing,|
religious and military processions, ethnic food and costumes
|Observances||Mass and other liturgical celebrations|
|Next time||8 December 2020|
|Related to||Nativity of Mary|
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the solemn celebration of belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It is universally celebrated on December 8, nine months before the feast of the Nativity of Mary, which is celebrated on September 8. The Immaculate Conception is one of the most important Marian feasts in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, and is celebrated worldwide.
By Pontifical designation and decree, it is the patronal feast day of Argentina, Brazil, Korea, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, Spain, the United States, Uruguay and Italy. By royal decree, it is also designated as the Patroness of Portugal. It is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church as well as a few other closely related Protestant Christian churches, but not by the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, and Church of the East.
The feast was first solemnized as a Holy Day of Obligation on 6 December 1708 under the Papal Bull Commissi Nobis Divinitus by Pope Clement XI and is often celebrated with Mass, parades, fireworks, processions, ethnic foods, and cultural festivities in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and is generally considered a Family Day, especially in many majority Catholic countries.
The Eastern Christian Church first celebrated a "Feast of the Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God" on December 9, perhaps as early as the 5th century in Syria. The original title of the feast focused more specifically on Saint Anne, being termed sylepsis tes hagias kai theoprometoros Annas" ("conception of Saint Anne, the Ancestress of God"). By the 7th century, the feast was already widely known in the East. However, when the Eastern Church called Mary achrantos ("spotless" or "immaculate"), this was not defined doctrine.
The majority of Orthodox Christians do not accept the Scholastic definition of Mary's preservation from original sin before her birth as subsequently defined in the Western Church after the Great Schism of 1054. After the feast was translated to the Western Church in the 8th century, it began to be celebrated on December 8. It spread from the Byzantine area of Southern Italy to Normandy during the period of Norman dominance over southern Italy. From there it spread to England, France, Germany, and eventually Rome.
In 1568, Pope Pius V revised the Roman Breviary, and though the Franciscans were allowed to retain the Office and Mass written by Bernardine dei Busti, this office was suppressed for the rest of the Church, and the office of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin was substituted instead, the word "Conception" being substituted for "Nativity."
According to the Papal Bull Commissi Nobis Divinitus, dated 6 December 1708, Pope Clement XI mandated the feast as a Holy Day of Obligation which is to be celebrated in future years by the faithful. Furthermore, the pontiff requested that the papal bull be notarized in the Holy See to be further copied and reproduced for dissemination.
Prior to Pope Pius IX's definition of the Immaculate Conception as a Roman Catholic dogma in 1854, most missals referred to it as the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The festal texts of this period focused more on the action of her conception than on the theological question of her preservation from original sin. A missal published in England in 1806 indicates the same Collect for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was used for this feast as well.
The first move towards describing Mary's conception as "immaculate" came in the 11th century. In the 15th century, Pope Sixtus IV, while promoting the festival, explicitly tolerated both the views of those who promoted it as the Immaculate Conception and those who challenged such a description, a position later endorsed by the Council of Trent.
The collect for the feast reads:
O God, mercifully hear the supplication of thy servants who are assembled together on the Conception of the Virgin Mother of God, may at her intercession be delivered by Thee from dangers which beset us.
In 1854, Pius IX issued the Apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus: "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 saviour of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin." This marked no actual change in doctrine, but rather marked the first instance of formal definition of the dogma.
According to the Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 5, when the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which always occurs within Advent, falls on a Sunday, it is transferred to the following Monday. (In some countries, including the United States, the obligation to attend Mass does not transfer.) The 1960 Code of Rubrics, still observed by some in accordance with Summorum Pontificum, gives the feast of the Immaculate Conception preference even over an Advent Sunday.
The solemnity is an official public holiday in the following sovereign countries and territories:
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The Holy See, through the Sacred Congregation of Rites grants the express privilege to use blue or cerulean vestments on this day for the Spanish crown and its former territories. Numerous pontiffs have expressed the same sentiment via a Pontifical decree, namely the following:
Several petitions were submitted to the Holy See to use blue or violet vestments for other Marian feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is considered an ecclesiastical abuse by the Sacred Congregation of Rites, and ruled against it on 23 February 1839.
In the Church of England, the "Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary" may be observed as a Lesser Festival on 8 December. The situation in other constituent churches of the Anglican Communion is similar, i.e., as a lesser commemoration. Many Anglo-Catholic parishes observe the feast using the traditional Roman Catholic title, the "Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary".
While the Eastern Orthodox Churches have never accepted the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, they do celebrate December 9 as the Feast of the Conception by St. Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos. While the Orthodox believe that the Virgin Mary was, from her conception, filled with every grace of the Holy Spirit, in view of her calling as the Mother of God, they do not teach that she was conceived without original sin as their understanding and terminology of the doctrine of original sin differs from the Roman Catholic articulation. The Orthodox do affirm that Mary is "all-holy" and never committed a personal sin during her lifetime.
The Orthodox feast is not a perfect nine months before the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos (September 8) as it is in the West, but a day later. This feast is not ranked among the Great Feasts of the church year, but is a lesser-ranking feast (Polyeleos).