The history of the Catholic celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

December 8 marks one of the most significant dates in the Catholic calendar- the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, when Catholics across the world mark the conception of the Virgin Mary, and look to her as an example of a sinless person.

Given its name, some might naturally assume the Feast of the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’ conception. However, it actually refers to the conception of Mary herself, a fact that becomes more obvious when you consider the fact that the feast comes just 17 days before Christmas. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was given redemption by God from the moment of her conception. Not only was she therefore free from original sin, but she was also protected from personal sin- as befitting her role as the mother of Jesus. Because of the significance of this event, December 8 is therefore considered a Holy Day of Obligation, when Catholics are required to go to Mass.

The origins of the Feast of Immaculate Conception dates back to the seventh century, when Mary’s conception was first celebrated. This was more of a feast day for Mary’s mother, Saint Anne, though- it was only in the eleventh century that the feast was celebrated in its current form.

The events celebrated by the feat have been subject of quite some controversy over the centuries, as theologians have argued on one side that Mary could only have been sinless if she was exempt from original sin, whereas others have stated that she could only have been redeemed if she was subject to original sin. Since the fifteenth century, though, the former argument has been the official doctrine of the Western Catholic Church, and the feast day has been marked by millions of Catholics across the world.

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