Saint Brigid Religious Education
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West Hartford, CT 06110
Holy Days of Obligation
Feast of The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary ~
Immaculate Conception is, according to Roman Catholic Dogma, the conception
of the Virgin Mary without any stain ("macula" in Latin) of original sin.
Under this aspect Mary is sometimes called the Immaculata (the Immaculate
One), particularly in artistic contexts.
The dogma says that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved
by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that
she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed that she
lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb
of her mother, through sexual relations, should not be confused with the
doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated on 8 December, was
established as a universal feast in 1476 by Pope Sixtus IV. He did not
define the doctrine as a dogma, thus leaving Roman Catholics freedom to
believe in it or not without being accused of heresy; this freedom was
reiterated by the Council of Trent. The existence of the feast was a strong
indication of the Church's belief in the Immaculate Conception, even before
its 19th century definition as a dogma.
In the Catholic Church, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a Holy
Day of Obligation, except where conferences of bishops have decided, with
the approval of the Holy See, not to maintain it as such. It is a public
holiday in some countries where Roman Catholicism is predominant.
The Immaculate Conception was solemnly defined as a dogma by Pope Pius IX in
his constitution Ineffabilis Deus on December 8,1854. The Catholic
Church believes that the dogma is supported by Scripture (e.g., Mary's being
greeted by the Angel Gabriel as "full of grace") as well as either directly
or indirectly by the writings of Church Fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons
and Ambrose of Milan. Catholic theology maintains that since Jesus became
incarnate of the Virgin Mary, it was fitting that she be completely free of
sin for expressing her fiat.
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