Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
“Your birth, O Blessed Virgin Mary, fills the whole world with a sweet consolation and a holy joy, because of you was born our Jesus, our God, who has taken away from us the curse in which we were plunged by the sin of our first parents, and filled us with all kinds of blessings.” ~ St. John Vianney
History of this feast day
The feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the oldest of the Marian solemnities, was mentioned by the Church Fathers in the early fifth century. Like other Marian feasts, it began to be celebrated at the local level without any major solemnity. As the feast began to spread throughout the Byzantine world in the sixth and seventh century, it was celebrated with greater solemnity. The solemnity of the feast spread to Rome in the seventh century, and in the following centuries, it spread throughout the whole Western Church. In the eighth century, at the time of St Andrew of Crete (+740), the feast of Mary’s nativity was already observed and celebrated in the same way as that of other major liturgical feasts of the Byzantine Church. The feast was established on September 8, because it was on that day that St. Helen, Emperor Constantine’s mother, dedicated the basilica she built in Jerusalem to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Significance of this feast day
Each Year, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated on September 8. Usually the church celebrates the feast day of a saint on the date of their death, which is actually the day remembered as their birth into everlasting life. Mary, however, was conceived without sin as a special grace because God had selected her to become the Mother of His Son. Her birth is a cause for great joy as it is considered the “dawn of our salvation” (Pope Paul VI, Marialis Cultus, 1972.)
Saint Augustine described the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an event of cosmic and historic significance, and an appropriate prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley,” he said.
Although there is no reference to Mary’s birth in the Sacred Scriptures, the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, appear in the Protoevangelium of James (5:2), which is an apocryphal writing from the late 2nd century. According to this account, Joachim and Anne were also beyond the years of child-bearing, but prayed and fasted that God would grant their desire for a child.
The primary focus of this feast day is that the world had been enslaved in the darkness of sin and with the arrival of Mary begins a glimmer of light. Living in our current culture of death, we rejoice in Mother Mary who shows us the way to the culture of life by drawing us closer to the Heart of her Son. As St. Louis de Montfort says, “She is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say “Mary” she says “God”. There is a bond of love between Mary and God like no other.
As the Mother of God, Mary is radiantly beautifully. She is totally pure, modest, chaste, humble, obedient. Her soul is immaculate — free from the stain of original sin. Mary is often referred to as the “New Eve.” Through her fiat — her obedience to the will of God — she opened the doors of redemption and salvation to all her children which had been closed by Eve in her disobedience to the will of God. Because of God’s eternal design, she became a necessary element for our redemption from the bondage of sin. As St. Jerome wrote: “Death through Eve, life through Mary.” And, in the words of St. Louis de Montfort, “Mary alone gives to the unfortunate children of unfaithful Eve entry into that earthly paradise where they may walk pleasantly with God and be safely hidden from their enemies. There they can feed without fear of death on the delicious fruit of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They can drink copiously the heavenly waters of that beauteous fountain which gushes forth in such abundance.”
Today, let us celebrate with joyful hearts the miraculous birth of God’s Mother and our Mother. Blessed is the fruit of her womb!
PRAYER FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
O Virgin immaculate, thou who by a singular privilege of grace wast preserved from original sin, look in pity upon our separated brethren, who are nevertheless thy children, and call them back to the center of unity. Not a few of them, although separated from the Church, have kept a certain veneration for thee; and do thou, generous as thou art, reward them for it, by obtaining for them the grace of conversion.
Thou wast conqueror of the infernal serpent from the first instant of thy existence; renew even now, for it is now more necessary than ever before, thine ancient triumphs; glorify thy divine Son, bring back to Him the sheep that have strayed from the one fold and place them once more under the guidance of the universal Shepherd who holds the place of thy Son on earth; let it be thy glory, O Virgin who destroyest all heresies, to restore unity and peace once more to all the Christian people.