Celebrating the Virgin Mary’s Birthday in Today’s Liturgy
Today we celebrate Mary’s birth because of her role in God’s plan of salvation as the mother of Jesus. It is something worth noting that the readings of the celebration of Mary’s birth do not center on Mary. Rather, they present us with the prophecy of the birth of Jesus and his genealogy. This is given so that we celebrate Mary’s life in connection with the birth of Jesus. He, who became the savior of humanity.
The story around Mary’s birth is not seen in the Bible. However, the Protoevangelium of James, a pre-Nicene writing, narrates the story of the events surrounding the conception and birth of Mary by Joachim and Anne, Mary’s early years till her betrothal to Joseph, and the immaculate conception of Jesus. It may be interesting to read through this ancient text on this feast day.
In today’s first reading (Mi 5,1-4a) we hear the prophecy of the birth of Jesus. The reading identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of the One who will be a great ruler. The One who will shepherd the flock of God and lead them home. The alternative first reading from Romans 8, 28-30 speaks of how God fulfils His purpose for his chosen ones. These readings refer to what the Church puts before us on today’s Feast. Namely, the role of Mary in the work of salvation and the importance of devotion to Mary. The scriptures point to the victory over the serpent (Gen 3,15) through her. Particularly, the New Testament makes some references to Mary by its hint of the virgin who will conceive and bring forth a son whose name will be Emmanuel.
In all her depictions – in the Scriptures and Church teachings – Mary is outstanding among the humble and the poor of the Lord, who wait with confidence and receive salvation from God. St Irenaeus, describing Mary’s role, says: “[B]y her obedience she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race” (Irenaeus, Adversus Haeresus, III, 22,4).
The Role of the BVM in the Economy of Salvation
The Fathers of the second Vatican Council devoted chapter 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, to Mary. Mary’s eminent role is to be a mediator for the faithful followers of her Son, Jesus. According to the Fathers of Vatican II, Mary “cooperated in the salvation of the whole human race with free faith and obedience” (LG, 56). Mary’s maternal role towards humanity, especially the faithful of God, is unique. She is a great mediator between us and the Son who also mediates for us to the Father.
Mary’s mediatorial role is not limited; she is the great intercessor for all the faithful to her son and to God the father. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council express that Mary’s role in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ. Rather it shows forth its power and fosters the union of believers with Christ. Just as she mediated for the wedding couple at Cana in Galilee in these words, “Son, their wine is finished.” This indeed demonstrates how Mary lightens the burden and pain of the faithful. She stays close to them and guarantees their physical and spiritual welfare.
Like a good mother, she saves the faithful from evil and all dangers. Mary is a great consoler. She brings solace to her children in times of difficulties. And ensures their happiness and safe journey in their earthly pilgrimage. Mary is great at that, I assure you.
The best way to celebrate Mary’s birthday could be to meditate on the mystery of our salvation. And meditate on how the Church presents Mary as a model for the life of faith. On the celebration of the Assumption of Mary, on August 15th, Paul Verderber, the president of the Gratia Vobis Ministries, reminded us of some of Mary’s qualities especially “her willingness to say yes to the Lord even on uncertain times.”
The Church presents Mary to us as the image of a faithful follower of God and a role model for us all. It may be worth trying to emulate Mary, precisely by reflecting over the events of our life, seeking God’s will in these events and bearing fruits with patient endurance.