December 8 is such an important day for the Catholic Church, as Christians celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Proclaimed in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, this day reminds the faithful that the Holy Virgin is untouched by sin.
To pay homage to the Holy Virgin in front of the whole world, every year on 8 December the Pope goes to Piazza di Spagna, in Rome, to offer the statue of the Immaculate Conception a marvelous crown of flowers.
Let’s see the origins and the peculiarities of this important solemnity.
Story of the Immaculate Conception
According to the Holy Bible, by the grace of God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary has been preserved from the original sin since the first moment of her conception, happened in a natural way in the womb of her mother, St Anne. Mary, like no one else, never got in touch with the stain of the original sin that usually is transmitted from one generation to another.
This total absence of sin in the Blessed Virgin permitted God to get closer to Mary, in order to let her grow in her womb His own son, Jesus Christ.
This dogma reminds the first occurrence of redemption, started by God, in the house of St Anne and St Joachim, the parents of Mary. For this reason, the Virgin Mary is considered the first of redeemed and her immaculate conception represents the realization of the Promise of God, but even the beginning of the new story.
In the Evangelic passage of the Annunciation, it is easy to deduce that Mary has been conceived without the original sin, when the Archangel Gabriel greets her saying “full of Grace”. These words let Christians easily understand that the angel is speaking to a somebody who is totally full of the Life of God and lives in the state of Grace.
The Call of Pope Pius IX
With the apostolic constitution Ineffabilis Deus, on 8 December 1854 Pope Pius IX proclaims the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which reports:
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 merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
The Pope declared then, during his exile in Gaeta, he made a vow to the Blessed Virgin, in order to receive the possibility of coming back to Rome and rebuild the Christian order in Europe.
After receiving these graces, as he promised, Pope Pius IX dedicated his life to the promulgation of the dogma and established the solemnity.
The dogma of the Immaculate Conception
This very important dogma of the Christian world refers as well to some apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Earth, like the one happened in 1858 to Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary Saint of Lourdes that declared she saw and heard the Holy Virgin saying:
I am the Immaculate Conception.
In 1830, Catherine Labouré, novice of the monastery of Rue du Bac, coined a religious medal with the words of a prayer she “saw”, during an apparition of the Virgin:
Oh Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
All the faithful devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary that want to celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, are used to recite prayers, such as the Hail Mary, with the holy rosary beads dedicated to her.