Immaculate Conception a Feast to Celebrate
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
December 2, 2021
One December feast day is perhaps the most misunderstood by Catholics.
The Gospel for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, a holy day of obligation, does not help the common confusion. That Gospel, Luke 1:26-38, gives the account of the annunciation – when the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, announcing that she will bear God’s son. Mary says that she has had “no relations with a man” and Gabriel replies that, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
With that Gospel reading, it is little wonder that so many conclude that this wonderful feast day is all about that unique conception of Jesus.
The feast, however, celebrates Mary’s own conception in her mother’s womb — because she, Mary, was conceived without original sin. Fully human, Mary was redeemed by Jesus, her Savior and ours, at that moment.
Without original sin, Mary was free of any inner tendencies that plague the rest of us, keeping us distanced from God. She was able to be totally open to God, able to welcome Him into her heart from her very beginning, and willing to accept Jesus into her  self without hesitation.
Perhaps we think her Immaculate Conception somehow took away her free will. But remember that original sin came upon humanity when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit of that powerful tree. Adam and Eve initially did not harbor original sin, but they were free to choose to sin.
Mary was free to tell the angel, “No.” But instead, Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that Gabriel saluted Mary as being “full of grace.” The Catechism says that, “In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.”
It adds, “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary … was redeemed from the moment of her conception.”
Pope Pius IX proclaimed the feast day on Dec. 8, 1854, saying that 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, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
Hers is the “splendor of an entirely unique holiness … redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.”
Confirmation of that title comes from Mary herself. In 1858, the Blessed Mother gave her name to St. Bernadette at Lourdes stating, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” At that time, Bernadette had not heard the term.
Mary’s Immaculate Conception is what we celebrate on Dec. 8, a holy day of obligation. 
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