Today, September 8, we celebrate and honor the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The birth of the Blessed Mother is a pivotal point in salvation history because Mary gave birth to the Lord, the Messiah, God Incarnate. Her “yes” is the predecessor to our own ability to say “yes” to Jesus. The Catholic Church has celebrated the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from as early as the sixth century.
The exact date of Mary’s birth is unknown. The Church chose September to celebrate the Blessed Mother’s birthday because the Eastern Church begins its liturgical year in September. As a result, it is a way to begin a “new year” (in terms of the Eastern Church) by celebrating the mother that began a new “yes” to God by her Magnificat in response to the angel’s annunciation.
Although there is no specific account of Mary’s birth, or events leading up to her birth, in Sacred Scripture, there is tradition regarding the Blessed Virgin’s birth. Tradition utilizes the apocryphal for its source. It is important to note that the books of the apocryphal (not the same books declared as apocryphal by Protestants) are not Sacred Scripture and hold no historical value and are not considered theologically sacred. It does, on the other hand, give us a bit of insight into what the early Christians believed about the birth of Mary.
The Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim, Mary’s parents, struggled with infertility but deeply desired a child. They prayed for the ability to have a child and they received the promise of a child. The promise they receive regarding this child is not the average promise that they will simply become parents. They are told the child they will raise play a significant role in God’s plan of salvation and in the advancement of that plan.
Saint Augustine bridges this gap between the saving work of Christ on the cross and Mary’s “yes”. He states, “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.” Christians believe that Jesus is the perfect expression and vessel of God’s love. He is love Incarnate because He is God Incarnate. If he, indeed, is God Incarnate then we must recognize that Mary is not just “a woman” or “a mother” who happened to have given birth to a child. She is THE mother of the Messiah. As a result, she is the foreshadowing of the love, grace, and perfect mercy that comes through Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection.
Today, let us rejoice in the birth of the Mother of the Church. May we spend some time today reflecting on the importance she holds within the Church, in salvation history, in the heart of her Son, and in our own hearts. Take a few minutes today to say, “Happy Birthday Blessed Mother”.