Remembering Mary, Mother of God on the Feast of Immaculate Conception

Published December 8, 2022, 12:04 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Today, Dec. 8, is the Feast of Immaculate Conception. In the Philippines and in other predominantly Catholic countries, today is also a holiday. In our country, this is backed up by a law as former president Rodrigo Duterte signed in 2017 Republic Act 10966, adding Dec. 8 of each year to the list of holidays and special non-working days observed by Filipinos.

The law emanated from House Bill 5241, which was then merged with the Senate version. In the explanatory note of Senate Bill 1430, it said that the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation due to 300 years of Spanish rule. “To prove the Filipinos’ religiosity and faith are the numerous religious feasts, celebrations, and festivities being held in the country all year round.” Referring to statistics, almost 80 percent of Filipinos in 2015 identified themselves as Catholic.

The note further explained that while there are a number of religious feasts in the country, there are only three Holy Days of Obligation — these days being the most important feasts of the liturgical year. “Under the Code of Canon Law recognized by the Holy See and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the Philippines has three Holy Days of Obligation, namely, the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), Christmas Day or Nativity of Our Lord (Dec. 25), and the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God (Jan. 1). During these days, every Catholic individual is obliged to attend and hear mass — one of the absolute minimum actions required of Catholics regarding the Church.“

Looking back, the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was made on Dec. 8, 1854 when Pope Pius IX officially declared this. According to the CBCP, Filipino Catholics have a strong devotion to Mary, Mother of God. One of the manifestations of which is when, “upon the request of the bishops in the Philippines, Pope Pius XII declared Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, as the Patroness of the Philippines on Sept. 12, 1942.”

“Further proof of Filipinos’ veneration to Mary is that apart from festivals in honor of a town’s patron saint, each also has their own claim to the Virgin Mary with a festivity in her honor and vigorously celebrated throughout the year such as the Flores de Mayo, Feast of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia, Manaoag Pilgrimage, Obando Fertility Rites, among others.” Other practices of devotion to Mary noted by the CBCP are “novenas to the Blessed Mother as preparation for the patronal feast, the block rosary, and the endless symphony of Marian names in the baptismal records.”

According to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., for members of the Catholic faith, the Immaculate Conception is “not just significant, it is essential.” “Because of the grace of God, Mary was preserved from sin. Because Mary was preserved from sin, she was prepared to become the sinless Mother of Jesus, who by his life, death, and resurrection, has ransomed us from sin. Because of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, because of her ‘yes’ to God, we have been redeemed, and given the promise of eternal life through the merits of Mary’s Son, Jesus.”

Today is a good day for all — Catholic or not — to take a breather; pause for a moment and reflect on the life, times, and sacrifices of Mary, Mother of God.