Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the solemn dogma defined by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1854. As Our Lady Immaculately Conceived is the patroness of the United States of America, this is a holy day of obligation in the United States.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 Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed on December 8, 1854: "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, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." — Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Mass Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
The First Reading is from the Book of Genesis 3:9-15, 20. The preceding verses (2:4--3:8) described the temptation of the woman (later called Eve) by the serpent. She succumbs and tempts the man. As soon as they had disobeyed God's command given in 2:16-17, they realized their guilt and tried to hide from God.
Meditation: Immaculate Conception of Mary
"Hail Mary, full of grace." For thousands of centuries, millions of times per day the Virgin Mary is greeted by the faithful with the greeting of the Archangel, that we hear resonating anew in today’s Gospel. The sons of the Church learn from the words of the Archangel Gabriel that the fullness of the mystery of God’s grace was realized in Holy Mary. St Paul the Apostle teaches us that the Father made all fullness dwell in His Incarnate Son (c.f. Col 1:12-20), which overflows from Christ’s head and spills out on His Mystical Body that is the Church. Before descending in Body, Christ’s fullness was spread in a unique and unrepeatable way on Mary, predestined from eternity to be the Mother of God.
- The dogma of the Immaculate Conception lends itself to fruitful meditation and should be taught to children. The doctrine of original sin, the sin of Adam and its effects on the human race, is a good beginning for study. For the best explanation of the teachings of the Church on this, see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, numbers 386-412. Also, you might read the Apostolic Constitution The Immaculate Conception (Ineffabilis Deus) where Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on December 8, 1854, the date of the annual feast of the Immaculate Conception. Other reading from the Catholic Culture Library:
- Pope Pius IX's bull, Ubi Primum (On The Immaculate Conception) an encyclical of Pope Pius IX to the bishops of the Catholic Church asking them for opinion on the definition of a dogma on the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It was issued on February 2, 1849;
- Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum (On The Immaculate Conception) by Pope Saint Pius X;
- Fulgens Corona (Proclaiming A Marian Year To Commemorate The Centenary Of The Definition Of The Dogma Of The Immaculate Conception) by Pope Pius XII;
- On Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Marialis Cultus) by Pope Saint Paul VI;
- Immaculate Conception Defined by Pius IX by Pope Saint John Paul II;
- John Duns Scotus: Champion of the Immaculate Conception by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.;
- The Message of the Virgin of Lourdes by Bishop Donald Montrose, D.D.;
- The Immaculate Conception by Abbot Gueranger
- Mary as the Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States. Visit or take a virtual tour of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, America's patronal church.
- This day would also be appropriate for parents to plan their approach on family sex education, as it is the privilege and duty of parents to teach their own children in this area.
- Make a Mary candle for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. See Celebrating for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception for details and other ideas.
- Prepare an all white meal for dinner and then discuss with your children the dogma of the Immaculate Conception with the visual aids of dinner showing the purity and the stainlessness of Mary's soul. Read Teaching the Immaculate Conception and Advent and the Immaculate Conception for discussion ideas.Ideas for dinner, with a theme of white for purity:
Appetizers: Crackers and white cheeses;
Soups: cream soups, such as clam chowder, potato soup, cream of celery;
Main Course: chicken breasts, pasta with Alfredo sauce;
Side Dishes: mashed potatoes, white rice, cauliflower with (or without) white cheese sauce, white bread (with crusts removed), white corn;
Dessert: White cake with white icing, meringue kisses, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, white chocolate.
- The special treat for this feast is Moravian Spritz, or gingerbread cookies, loaded with fine, aromatic spices. These are mixed on the vigil, December 7. Or make your favorite gingerbread cookie. Perhaps for this solemnity the family could make a gingerbread house or Gingerbread Bowls.
- See also Catholic Cuisine for other food ideas.
- Today, plant an Immaculate Conception Rose Bush. During this winter season, it is also a good time to plan a Mary Garden. Flower Theology by John Stokes, the website Mary's Gardens and the book Mary's Flowers, Gardens, Legends and Meditations by Mary's Gardens Associate, Vincenzina Krymow, are good beginnings for planning your garden.
- No room for a garden? No time to nurture nature? Read Flowers for the Fairest by Daniel Foley to read about flowers appropriate for Our Lady, and purchase a small bouquet or a few flowers...real or silk to display for feasts of Mary.