This is something I have always wondered about.
The feast celebrating Jesus’s conception is the feast of the Annunciation and that is March 25.
Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s conception, not that of Jesus.
Which, of course, takes place on December 8th, nine months before September 8th, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.
The feast celebrates the fact of Mary’s conception without original sin on her soul. It does not refer to the virgin birth of Jesus or to his conception.
But this is a very common misconception. Our pastor gave a very good homily on the immaculate conception on the Holy Day of Obligation. But I would wager that a great many of the congregation left Mass still thinking that he was talking about the virgin birth.
Once while I was working the topic came up in a conversation with a coworker–a Catholic woman. She asked the same question, why isn’t the feast of the Immaculate Conception nine months before Christmas? I said, “It’s about her conception, not His.” (And it does not mean that she was conceived virginally in her mother’s womb.)
Because the Immaculate Conception is Mary’s conception without the stain of original sin.
The Church celebrates the events of the life of Christ in what is called a liturgical year which is simply one year or 365 days. Right now we are in the Advent season which we prepare for the birth of Jesus which is Christmas day. Not long after this, we enter into the season of Lent which recalls Jesus going into the wilderness after his baptism and fasting for 40 days which culminates in Holy Week wherein we recall the events of Jesus’ passion, crucifixion and death. Then we have easter, the resurrection of Jesus followed by his Ascension. And then we have Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. After this, we have Ordinary Time which lasts a number of months and the gospel readings at Sunday Mass in this liturgical time are mainly about what Jesus did and taught during his public ministry. If we followed chronologically the life of Mary and Jesus in real years, it would take the Church roughly 45 years or so to go through all these events. For example, we would have Christmas only every 45 years or so. So the Church condenses the life of Jesus and his blessed Mother, St Joseph too and other notable figures into one year.
September 8th is also my birthday. My mom used to remind me of that whenever we would talk about my being premature, as in her words, she knew I’d turn out healthy because Mary was looking out for me. Which she did, and I recently completed the First Five Saturdays devotion to honor her. I was actually kind of excited when I realized that the feast of the Immaculate Conception fell so close to the 5th Saturday. Apparently starting in August was a good time.
But to answer the OP, the Immaculate Conception refers to Mary’s birth, not Jesus’s, although I used to get confused about it as well.
Is this really necessary? Seems very uncharitable.
Up until RCIA I always believed the Immaculate Conception was about Jesus conception.
When our instructor told us IC refers to how Our Lady was conceived and why it was necessary I was blown away.
- this, FJen.
I have to admit that I used to have this misconception.
Having the same misconception (no pun intended haha) and being corrected by a friend was what got me to realize I was pretty ignorant about my faith and needed to learn more about it. This feast has always been special to me for that reason.
The Gospel reading for the feast of the Immaculate Conception is the story of the archangel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, which of course helps add to the confusion. The gospel story is about the conception of Jesus while the feast day is about the conception of Mary.
Yes, it is. The key phrase that should stand out for this particular solemnity is “full of grace.”
Exactly so, and that is the point that should be emphasized in the homily. Yet, even if that point is emphasized, many in the congregation will leave Mass still thinking that the feast day was about Mary’s conception of Jesus.
The point of the gospel reading, however, is the greeting of the Annunciation, “hail full of grace” and that she will conceive and bear a son who will save his people, which is linked to the protoevangelium of Genisis 3:15.
Yes, I agree. When I was about ten years old in elementary school, I heard the same homily every year which set out exactly the meaning of the immaculate conception. The next year I would think, hey, I’ve heard that before! The homilies I hear now are better at exegesis and homiletic presentation, but I still think it goes right over a lot of people.
Maybe the reason is that after the sexual revolution, when one speaks of immaculate conception, the immediate thought is that it must be about sex. So maybe now each homily must be preceded by an explanation that first, it’s not about sex, it’s about original sin, and sanctifying grace, and Mary being preserved from original sin and filled with sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence, through the salvific grace given by her Son.
Count forward three months from her birthday and you have her conception date. That’s how it is with every child. It take 9 months from conception to birth. It’s not rocket science!