The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is the doctrine that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin, that twist in our nature that makes our will tend not to follow what it knows to be right. It was this grace that enabled Mary to give a true and considered “Yes” to the request, conveyed by the Angel Gabriel, that she should consent to be the mother of the incarnate God.
The doctrine was almost universally believed over the centuries but was only formally defined as a doctrine of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Because it is so old, it is one of the Marian doctrines that Islam shares with the Catholic Church, though of course the theological details are very different.
This is a day to meditate on the peerless beauty of Our Lady because of her freedom from sin. Try reading the following hymn from the Brievary slowly and reflectively.
Mary Immaculate, star of the morning,
Chosen to bring in the light of thy dawning,
Woe to the serpent and rescue to man.
Here, in this world of both shadow and sadness
Veiling thy splendour, thy course hast thou run:
Now thou art throned in all glory and gladness,
Crowned by the hand of thy Saviour and Son.
Sinners, we worship thy sinless perfection;
Fallen and weak, for thy pity we plead:
Grant us the shield of thy sov’reign protection,
Measure thine aid by the depth of our need.
Bend from thy throne at the voice of our crying,
Bend to this earth which thy footsteps have trod:
Stretch out thine arms to us, living and dying,
Mary Immaculate, Mother of God.