The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

solemnity-of_the_immaculate_conception

The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was instituted to solemnize the exalted dignity bestowed upon her through a special grace of God, and in behalf of the merits of Christ – a dignity and choice that preserved her from the least stain of original sin.

We must look to the Orient for the first indications of this feast. In the Eastern Church it was observed as early as the Seventh Century, and in the Western Churches it became known in the Ninth Century. Pope Sixtus IV introduced it (1476) into the Roman Church; Pope Gregory XV gave to it (1622) the title, “Conceptio B.V.M. Immaculatae”; Innocent XII raised it (1693) to a feast of the second class with an octave; Clement XI declared it (1708) a universal holyday; Pius IX gave it (1863) new Breviary hours and a new Mass; Leo XIII raised it (1879) to a feast of the first class with a vigil. The choice of December 8th was determined and approved solely in accordance with its tradition. The First Plenary Council of Baltimore, held in (1846), chose the Blessed Virgin Mary in her Immaculate Conception as the principal patron of the United States.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception is not to be confused with that of the conception of Christ (feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary); it is the commemoration of the day on which Mary was created by God, and that in the state of grace; whereas all other human beings come into the world stained with original sin. This idea of the feast was vigorously debated by theologians till far into the Middle Ages, but was clarified more and more under the authority of the popes, so that the dogma, announced by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854, as divinely revealed, had already been universally accepted as such in the Seventeenth Century.

(Source: The New Roman Missal, Rev. F. X. Lasance)

St. Andrew

standrew_000

St. Andrew
image credit

St. Andrew, the elder brother of St. Peter, and like him, a fisherman of the lake of Galilee, on hearing St. John the Baptist proclaim that Jesus was the Lamb of God, was moved to follow Our Lord, who chose him to be one of the twelve apostles. It is believed that after the Resurrection, St. Andrew labored in spreading the Gospel in Eastern Europe, and made many converts.

At the last he was crucified in Patras in the Greek manner. In 357 his remains, together with those of St. Luke, were solemnly translated to the Church of the Apostles in Constantinople. His head is venerated at St. Peter”s in Rome. In 1210 his body had been moved to the Cathedral at Amalfi in the Kingdom of Naples. His feast is important not only on account of the position it holds in the Missal (at the beginning of the Proper of the Saints) but more especially on account of the antiphons of the Divine Office and the passages from Holy Scripture read at the Mass.

(Source: Fr. Lasance, The New Roman Missal)

Vigil of St. Andrew

st_andrew_cross

St. Andrew
image credit

The day preceding a festival is styled a vigil (from the Latin word signifying a night-watch) because in primitive ages the faithful passed in prayer in the church the greater part of the evening and night preceding a festival. Nor did they break their fast until after the holy sacrifice of the Mass had been offered, and Communion given in the course of the vigil. Hence the greater vigils are still observed as fast days; and the Mass of a vigil has a special penitential character. Purple vestments are worn by the priest; the Gloria in excelsis is not said.