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The old belief

Sunday, 9 December, 2012

Knock Shrine, Mayo, Ireland

“The feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is celebrated on 8 December, emerged in some Anglo-Saxon monasteries in the eleventh century. But the attempts to introduce it officially provoked contradiction and theoretical discussion, bearing upon its legitimacy and its meaning, which were continued for centuries and were not definitively settled before 1854. The ‘Martyrology of Tallaght’ compiled about 790 and the ‘Feilire’ of St. Aengus (800) register the Conception of Mary on 3 May. This Irish feast certainly stands alone and outside the line of liturgical development. The Scholiast adds, in the lower margin of the “Feilire”, that the conception (Inceptio) took place in February, since Mary was born after seven months — a singular notion found also in some Greek authors. The first definite and reliable knowledge of the feast in the West comes from England; it is found in a calendar of Old Minster, Winchester (Conceptio S’ce Dei Genetricis Mari), dating from about 1030, and in another calendar of New Minster, Winchester, written between 1035 and 1056; a pontifical of Exeter of the eleventh century (assigned to 1046-1072) contains a ‘benedictio in Conceptione S. Mariae‘; a similar benediction is found in a Canterbury pontifical written probably in the first half of the eleventh century, certainly before the Conquest. These episcopal benedictions show that the feast not only commended itself to the devotion of individuals, but that it was recognized by authority and was observed by the Saxon monks with considerable solemnity. The existing evidence goes to show that the establishment of the feast in England was due to the monks of Winchester before the Conquest (1066).” The Catholic Encyclopedia

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