On September 8th, we will celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
With a very few exceptions, the Church usually celebrates saints’ feast days not on the day they were born, but rather the day they died and entered into eternity.
Nevertheless, the Church does celebrate two nativities—excluding Jesus’ birth on Christmas day—during the liturgical year: Mary’s birth on September 8th, and John the Baptist’s birth on June 24th.
We find the account of the nativity of St. John the Baptist in St. Luke Gospel (Cf. Lk 1:5-25’ 57-66). But the Gospels do not provide a similar account of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story of Mary’s birth comes from an old text—not part of the Canon of the Bible—called the Protoevangelium of James, and written around 170 AD.
According to the Protoevangelium of James, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne, were having difficulties conceiving a child. On one occasion, St. Joachim approached the temple with his offering for the poor, and to pray for the grace of a child. But St. Joachim was met with mockery, and was turned away by one of the leading priests in the temple who said to him: “How can a childless man be deemed worthy to come before God?”
It is reported that St. Joachim was very saddened after this horrible incident. He did not return to his wife St. Anne. Instead, he went in the desert and pitched his tent there. He prayed and decided that he would neither take food nor drink until God’s intervention. St. Anne his wife also raised her fervent prayer to God asking Him to bless just as He had blessed Sarah with the gift of Isaac in her old age.
Saints Joachim’s and Anne’s prayer was answered. They were given a daughter, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, who was conceived without sin. She would become the Theotokos (“God- bearer”), the Mother of God, and the Mother of all Christians.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus (“Marian Devotion”), Pope Paul VI calls the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “the hope of the entire world and the dawn of salvation.” This is also echoed in the antiphon of the canticle of Zechariah for Morning Prayer on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The antiphon reads: “Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, proclaims joy to the whole world, for from you arose the glorious Sun of Justice, Christ our God; He freed us from the age-old curse and filled us with holiness; He destroyed death and gave us eternal life.”
The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a cause for all of us to rejoice. Mary is given to each one of us as mother. (Cf. Jn 19:26) She continues to lead us to her son who is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through her fiat, she teaches us how to say yes to God and cooperate with His grace. She continues to gently invite us to put the word of God into practice in our lives: “Do whatever he tells you.” (Jn 2:5).
In these times of unparalleled challenges and confusion, we turn to our Blessed Mother and ask her to take us under her mantle for comfort and protection, and to lead us to Jesus as we pray:
Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen
Fr. Robain Lamba