December 8 is a special day for Filipino Catholics. It is on this day that the Universal Church observes the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the Philippines. Churches throughout the country dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary celebrate today’s solemnity with special devotion, among them the Cathedral-Basilica of Manila, the Cathedral-Basilica of Malolos, the Cathedrals of Antipolo, Pasig, Cubao, and Puerto Princesa, Palawan, as well as parishes of the Immaculate Conception in Malabon, Tayuman, Marikina, the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay in Batangas, and other churches built in her honor.
However, one does not need to visit the above-mentioned churches in order to celebrate today’s feast, for today is like a fiesta throughout the country.
The Immaculate Conception celebration every December 8 has been declared by the bishops of the Philippines as a holy day of obligation alongside with December 25, Christmas Day, and January 1, the Solemnity of the Motherhood of Mary.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854, that declares that the Blessed Virgin Mary, “in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin” (Ineffabilis Deus, 3).
The bishops of the Philippines, in their pastoral letter on the Blessed Virgin Mary entitled “And Mahal na Birhen: Mary in Philippine Life Today” in 1975 underscored the Christological character of today’s celebration. In that letter, the bishops said: “It makes clear, first of all, that no one is saved apart from Christ. This is true of all men who have ever lived, even though they were born many centuries before Christ. Secondly, the privileged redemption of Mary is totally and splendidly God’s gift to her because she was to be the Mother of Christ.”
May our devotion to the Blessed Mother bring us to an intimate relationship with her son Jesus. Any may we become channels of God’s grace and blessing to others, in the same way the Mary became an instrument of God’s salvation to all.