This year, because December 8 falls on a Sunday, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception will be celebrated tomorrow, December 9.That Our Lady was conceived free from sin is an ancient belief in the Church and officially promulgated as a dogma of Faith by Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1854.
When we speak of, or teach the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, what we speak of is the fact that, by a special grace of Almighty God, the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved from any stain of sin, from the very moment of her conception. Therefore, she was not touched even by original sin; and because she was never touched by original sin, she never experienced concupiscence, which is the tendency to be attracted to sin. Because of this, too, at the end of her life on earth, she was assumed, or taken up by God, body and soul, into heaven.
Why do we, as Catholics, believe in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? Genesis 3:15 states, “I will make you enemies of each other, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring…” These words were spoken by God to Satan who, in the form of a serpent, tempted our first parents – and they fell. In speaking these words to Satan, God was prophesying the triumph of Jesus and His Blessed Mother over Satan and his realms. Jesus, Son of God and of Mary, would, by His life, death and resurrection, triumph; but His mother Mary as well would never fall, thanks to this special grace of her Immaculate Conception.
In Luke 1, at the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel addressed the young Mary this way, “Hail, full of grace!” The full import of these words is that she is all holy, full to capacity of God’s grace. This can only be the case with someone untouched by any stain of sin.
Again, in Luke, Elizabeth’s words to Mary at the Visitation strengthen this idea, although she (Elizabeth) does not say it specifically. Elizabeth, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed to Mary: “Blessed are you among women…”, implying that Mary was singled out, among all women, for this special grace from God.
Many of the early Church Fathers showed belief in the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, as can be seen from their writings. In 1858, in Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin identified herself to young Bernadette Soubirous as “The Immaculate Conception”, when Bernadette asked for her name.
For all these reasons, we pray, in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Mother, most pure/Mother, all chaste/Mother, inviolate/ Mother, undefiled…pray for us”. And in the beautiful old Latin hymn, we sing, “Mater amta, intemerata, ora, ora, pro nobis” (Beloved Mother, undefiled, pray, pray for us).
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is of great importance to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain for, in 1760, the Immaculate Conception was declared the principal patron of the Crown of Spain and that included all her territories in the New World. That, at the time, included Trinidad, and many other islands of the Caribbean. It is no wonder then that many of the Cathedral Churches in the Eastern Caribbean, including our own here in Port of Spain, are named, “Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception”.
– Theresa Noel