Many people who go to Mass for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary may not know the exact reason for this important holy day of obligation, officially observed on Dec. 8.
Msgr. Charles Rowland, pastor of Holy Spirit Church on Johns Island, said even the most observant Catholics sometimes mistakenly believe the feast day commemorates Mary conceiving Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Actually, it celebrates Mary being conceived without sin by St. Anne, her mother. Mary’s conception of Jesus is celebrated on the Feast of the Annunciation, which is March 25.
Being conceived without the stain of original sin signified Mary’s special future role as the mother of God’s own son, Msgr. Rowland said.
“I would tell people to focus on the great gift St. Anne was given in being able to participate in the conception of her child without sin,” Msgr. Rowland said. “Mary being conceived without sin made her the first tabernacle for the sinless one, which was Jesus Christ himself. She was prepared for the eventual conception of Jesus in her womb by the Holy Spirit, and became the first temple and first tabernacle of Jesus.”
Mary’s Immaculate Conception was celebrated for many centuries before Pope Pius IX declared it an official dogma of the church through his apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus, issued on Dec. 8, 1854.
“… 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 merit of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin,” he wrote.
In the three days leading up to the feast day, members of Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek participate in parish missions, prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, said Adorno Father Nicholas Capetola, pastor.
Dec. 8 comes at an opportune time during Advent, when people of faith are already preparing for the coming of Christ at Christmas, he said.
“In a way, God was already preparing for Christmas when he created the Blessed Mother through the Immaculate Conception,” Father Capetola said. “He was thinking of the role she was going to play in the work of our redemption.”
People can fulfill their obligation by either attending a vigil Mass on Dec. 7 or any time on Dec. 8.