Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Fr. Don Miller, OFM
Image: The Birth of the Virgin | fresco by Giotto
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Saint of the Day for September 8
The Story of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story, like many biblical counterparts, stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.
Saint Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation, and asks for an increase of peace.
We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.
This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.
Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth, we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.
Birth Of The Blessed Virgin Mary
Feast Day: September 8
Born: (around) September 8, 20 B.C.
We do not usually celebrate the birthdays of the saints. Instead we celebrate the day they died, because that is the day they were born into the joys of heaven.
But the birthday of Mary, our Blessed Mother, is special. We celebrate her birthday because she came into this world full of grace and because she was to be the Mother of Jesus.
The birth of Our Lady was like a dawn. When the sky starts to turn a rosy pink early in the morning, we know the sun will soon come up.
In the same way, when Mary was born, she brought great happiness to the world. Her birth meant that soon Jesus, the Sun of justice, would appear. Mary was the wonderful human being who was chosen to bring the Lord Jesus to all people.
Even today, if we have Mary, we have Jesus. Whoever is very faithful to her is very close to the heart of Jesus.
CATHOLIC ALMANACFriday, September 8
Liturgical Color: White
Today is the Feast of the Birth of the
Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary’s
parents were from the line of David
as well as the family of Aaron,
providing Jesus with a royal and a
Ordinary Time: September 8th
Feast of the Nativity of Mary
Old Calendar: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary; St. Adrian, martyr; St. Corbinian, martyr (Hist) ; Other Titles: Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary was born to be the mother of the Savior of the world, the spiritual mother of all men, and the holiest of God’s creatures. Because of her Son’s infinite merits, she was conceived and born immaculate and full of grace. Through her, Queen of heaven and of earth, all grace is given to men. Through her, by the will of the Trinity, the unbelieving receive the gift of faith; the afflicted are tendered the works of mercy; and the members of Christ grow in likeness of their Head. In Mary all human nature is exalted. We rejoice in her birthday, as the Church has done from the earliest times. This is one of the three birthdays in the Church Calendar — the Birth of Jesus (December 25), the Birth of John the Baptist (June 24) and the Birthday of Mary. All three were born without original sin, although Mary and Jesus were conceived without sin, and St. John was cleansed of original sin while in the womb at the Visitation of Mary.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today also commemorates St. Adrian. The liturgy of Our Lady’s Birthday in Rome included a procession from the church of St. Adrian in the forum. St. Adrian was a Herculian Guard of the Roman Emperor Galerius Maximian. After becoming a convert to Christianity with his wife Natalia, Adrian was martyred at Nicomedia on March 4, 306.
Historically it is the feast of St. Corbinian, a Frank who spent fourteen years as a hermit and then went to Rome, where Pope Gregory II consecrated him bishop and sent him to evangelize Germany.
Birth of Mary
On Our Lady’s birthday the Church celebrates the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Savior’s mother, Mary. The Blessed Virgin occupies a unique place in the history of salvation, and she has the highest mission ever commended to any creature. We rejoice that the Mother of God is our Mother, too. Let us often call upon the Blessed Virgin as “Cause of our joy”, one of the most beautiful titles in her litany.
Since September 8 marks the end of summer and beginning of fall, this day has many thanksgiving celebrations and customs attached to it. In the Old Roman Ritual there is a blessing of the summer harvest and fall planting seeds for this day.
The winegrowers in France called this feast “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest”. The best grapes are brought to the local church to be blessed and then some bunches are attached to hands of the statue of Mary. A festive meal which includes the new grapes is part of this day.
In the Alps section of Austria this day is “Drive-Down Day” during which the cattle and sheep are led from their summer pastures in the slopes and brought to their winter quarters in the valleys. This was usually a large caravan, with all the finery, decorations, and festivity. In some parts of Austria, milk from this day and all the leftover food are given to the poor in honor of Our Lady’s Nativity.
Excerpted from The Holyday Book by Fr. Francis Weiser, SJ
Patron: All people named Mary, in any form.
Symbols: bruised serpent, sometimes encircling a globe; the lily; fleur de lis; virgin’s monogram; pierced heart; crescent moon; sun and moon; starry crown; Mater Dei; rose; flowering almond; gilly flower; snow drop; hawthorn; the star; the balsam; the Ark of the Covenant; the mirror or speculum; apple; myrtle; palm, cypress and olive; closed gate; book of Wisdom; sealed book; rod of Jesse; lily of the valley; house of gold; city of God; vessel of honor; seat of wisdom.
Things to Do:
- Learn prayers to Mary, such as the Angelus, Litany of Loreto, Memorare, Hail Mary, and Hail Holy Queen.
- Learn and sing various hymns to Mary, such as the Salve Regina, Immaculate Mary, Hail Holy Queen. See top bar for list of suggested hymns.
- Start researching and planning a Mary Garden, or a special plant or flower for each feast day of Mary. This can be for next spring, but if some bulbs are to be included, this is the time to plant them!
- Contemplate on how all the feasts of Mary point to the mysteries of Christ and our salvation history. Biblical readings: Proverbs 8:22-35 and Matthew 1:1-16 (this points to the appreciation of the heritage and family of Jesus).
- Have a birthday party for Mary, with a specially decorated birthday cake and birthday decorations. Blue is the traditional color of Mary’s mantle, so incorporating blue into the decor and food is quite appropriate. Try making an all white cake symbolizing Mary’s purity, or cookies with white icing. White meringue cookies (or kisses) would also remind one of Mary’s sinlessness. Birthday parties don’t need special explanations for children. Have each child present a “gift” to their Mother Mary, such as spiritual bouquets, faults or virtues to work on, corporal works of mercy, etc. Learn to make string knot rosaries to give as “favors.”
- Decorate the house, family table or family altar with flowers or special Marian decor.
- Eat some form of blueberries on this day, particularly in the morning — blueberry muffins or blueberry pancakes, blueberry pie or just fresh blueberries on your cereal. The blue is symbolic of Mary’s blue mantle.
- Find out about the devotion to “Maria Bambina” or “Baby Mary.”
- Women for Faith and Family have some wonderful ideas for this feastday.
While presiding over the torture of a band of Christians, St. Adrian asked them what reward they expected to receive from God. They replied, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”. He was so amazed at their courage that he publicly confessed his faith, though he had not himself yet been baptised. He was then imprisoned himself. He was forbidden visitors, but accounts state that his wife Natalia came to visit him dressed as a boy to ask for his prayers when he entered Heaven.
The next day his limbs were struck off on an anvil, and he was then beheaded, dying in the arms of Natalia. After he was killed, Adrian and several other martyrs were taken to be burned. When the executioners began to burn their bodies, a thunderstorm arose and the furnace was extinguished; lightning killed several of the executioners. Natalia had to be restrained to not throw herself on the fire when Adrian’s body was being burned. Christians took Adrian’s body and buried him on the outskirts of Byzantium, at Argyropolis.
Natalia went to live there herself, taking one of Adrian’s hands which she had recovered. When she herself died, she was buried with the martyrs.
St. Adrian was the chief military saint of Northern Europe for many ages, second only to St. George, and is much revered in Flanders, Germany and the north of France.
Patron: Plague, epilepsy, arms dealers, butchers, guards, soldiers.
Symbols: Depicted armed with an anvil in his hands or at his feet.
Things to Do:
Though St. Corbinian was a great Apostle of Bavaria, he was a native of Chatres, in France. He lived alone in a cell close to a chapel for fourteen years. He was sought out for spiritual counsel, and the occurrence of miracles made his holiness further known. Various people desired to form a community with him as their superior, but the disruption in his life caused by the duties that this undertaking required made him decide to go to Rome. A tradition relates that on his way there, after a bear killed his pack horse, he had his servant place his pack on the back of the bear and proceeded with it to the Eternal City. At some point, St. Corbinian was made a bishop, and Pope St. Gregory II sent him to Bavaria. In Freising, he preached with great success. St. Corbinian had been protected by Duke Grimoald, but when the Duke disobeyed Church law and married the widow of his brother without a dispensation, Corbinian condemned the union. The widow, Biltrudis, plotted to have Corbinian killed, but he fled to Meran. Eventually the Duke died in battle. Corbinian was originally buried at a monastery he had founded in Meran, but his body was later moved to Freising.
— Excerpted from 2009 Saints Calendar, Tan Books and Publishers
Patron: Freising, Germany; Archdiocese of Munich, Germany.
Symbols: Bear, bishop making a bear carry his luggage; bishop with a bear and mule.
The Word Among Us
Meditation: Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Feast)
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said. (Matthew 1:22)
When you watch a movie for the second time, you tend to pick up on details you missed at first. But you also risk losing the sense of anticipation about where the plot is leading; you already know how it ends. Something similar might happen when you read today’s Gospel. As we celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary, we hear a very familiar story. We see Joseph grappling with Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, and we see how their courage and faith helped them deal with the Incarnation.
Take a few minutes right now to imagine how Mary and Joseph must have been feeling at the time everything was unfolding. Their actions hardly resound with confidence. Mary was “greatly troubled” and quizzed the archangel about whether this was possible (Luke 1:29). Joseph, meanwhile, was ready to divorce her when he heard that Mary was pregnant. At that point, they wouldn’t have had the chance to discuss their angelic encounters. All they could see were the scandalous risks involved with choosing to go forward. Joseph risked his reputation if he married a woman who carried somebody else’s child. Mary jeopardized not only her chance of a good marriage, but her life as well.
Yet both said yes, and both did it alone, without even knowing the other side of the story. How confused and scared they must have been!
If Joseph and Mary had been able to see how their choices would affect the world, if they had been able to see how we would revere them, would it have been easier for them to say yes to God? Probably. But that makes it all the more remarkable; they made their choices in the dark, without knowing how everything would turn out.
That’s how we make our choices too. Think about all the times you have said yes to the Lord in your life. You have followed him sometimes eagerly, sometimes in the “darkness” of suffering or loneliness. Like Mary and Joseph, your understanding of what God can do with your yes is limited. You do not know where God is leading you. But he knows what he will do.
Listen to his voice—what yes is he calling you to next?
“Lord, help me respond to you with the same trust that Mary and Joseph showed.”
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord I thank you for the gift of faith. I believe only because so many others believed before me – and often at what great price! As I begin this prayer I review my genealogy of faith remembering all those who have passed on the faith to me. I strive to be a link in the faith chain for many other souls.
Petition: Dear Jesus, help me to be humble like the Blessed Virgin Mary.
1. God Is With Us: Today’s Gospel narrates for us the great mystery of the Incarnation. Why would God choose to become one of us? In his lineage appear the good and the bad, the faithful and the weak, the useful and useless. Why does God choose to take what is faulty, inferior, and make it his own? Why does he purify, restore, elevate, and cure what we are and what we offer him? Why? Why does he take upon himself my lineage, my personal history –– both the good and the bad –– and shape it into salvation history, for myself and for others? Why does he continue to do this? When will it be enough? God has said and will always be able to say, “What more could I have done for my people?”
2. Blessed Are You, and Blessed Is the Fruit of Your Womb: Joachim and Anna, the parents of Mary, were in a marriage apparently “going nowhere”: It was sterile. Tradition has it that Joachim was scorned by a bystander when presenting his offerings, because God had left him without offspring. Feeling deeply offended and downhearted, he followed his flocks of sheep into the wilderness and didn’t return to his wife for a long time. In the desert, he supposedly was informed by a supernatural appearance that a child would be born to him. When Joachim returned to his wife in Bethesda, inspired with new hope, she became pregnant and gave birth to Mary, who was born without sin. God takes what is useless and creates his masterpiece, the Immaculate Conception. Indeed, he raises up the lowly. What plans does he have for my life? Where do I fit into salvation history?
3. Let It Be Done According to Your Word: Having been told by her parents of the special circumstances of her birth, Mary grew of age “treasuring these things in her heart” (Cf. Luke 2:51). It is understandable that the pious girl Mary wanted to devote herself entirely to God, and perhaps, in her early years, took a vow of continence. Her simple and total dedication to God indeed made her his “highly favored daughter.” But God had other plans for her: He would ask her to bear his Son. Once again, God takes what is freely offered him and molds it into what he desires. He takes what is good and beautiful and makes it exceedingly so for the salvation of many. God humbly inserts himself into my boring and defective human lineage.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to remember today all the good things you have given me and my family. Let me see your work and your providence. I know that you come to my aid in hundreds of different ways. Help me to become more like Mary, and to ponder over all these things in my heart.
Resolution: I will look at my vocation with faith and new hope, confident that God is comfortable in inserting himself in the most common of circumstances. I will try to see his hand in at least one event of my day today.
Homily of the Day
September 8, 2017
For God there is no time. He exists from all eternity. And his plans are also from eternity. Our minds cannot really comprehend eternity, timeless, without beginning and end, and forever and ever. We can only be in awe and wonder at God and his ways: we really cannot fully understand, especially his workings and interventions in time and human history.
It does seem that God’s ways are so different from our ways. He works with and chooses what is small and insignificant in the world’s eyes: he chose Bethlehem, “so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah, from you shall I raise the one who is to rule over Israel.”
And God bides his time; he is not in any hurry. God waits. He waited for the birth of the maiden who would give birth to his Son. Amazing how he prepared for the coming of his Son as man.
Mary’s birth was insignificant, the ordinary birth of an ordinary baby girl to ordinary parents, Joachim and Anne. But in God’s plan, Mary’s birth was crucial in God’s salvific plan for humankind. “Preserved from all stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception,” the maiden Mary, “full of grace,” was in the “fullness of time” chosen to be the Mother of the Son of the Most High.
We rejoice and celebrate Mary’s birth as the “new beginning” of the dignity and vocation of women. Mary’s Fiat at the annunciation and her Magnificat at the visitation summarize her generous response to God.