One of the beloved feasts of Mary observed in the Liturgical Calendar comes during Advent. It is the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the teaching that Mary was preserved from any stain of original sin from the very moment of her conception by virtue of the merits of her Son Jesus Christ.
The doctrine developed in part from the angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation. It was fitting that the Mother of Christ should be filled with the grace her Son won for us on the cross. This ancient belief was held by many of the early Church Fathers, who called her “All Holy”, “All Sinless” and “Immaculate”. With the passing of time, the Eastern Church, to show its love for the Immaculate Conception, established a feast day to commemorate it sometime around the end of the 7th century. The Western Church followed suit, and by the high Middle Ages the celebration of the Immaculate Conception was widespread throughout Europe. The doctrine was recognized and defended universally as true Christian doctrine by the end of the 15th century.
Around the middle of the 19th century, Blessed Pope Pius IX, after consulting theologians and bishops all over the world, officially defined the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus, of December 8, 1854. In it he declared that the Blessed Virgin Mary “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace granted by God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved exempt from all stain of original sin.”
Under this title of the Immaculate Conception, the bishops of the United States proclaimed our Blessed Mother patroness of our country in 1847. Let us pray to Mary Immaculate to watch over us and to lead us ever closer to her Son Jesus.