The Catholic Church celebrates Mary’s birthday on September 8th, nine months after the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8. Most of what we know about Mary’s birth are based on a tradition that stems from the 2nd century, the Protoevangelium of James. There, it says that Joachim the father of Mary was a very wealthy man in Israel, but he and his wife Ann had not yet been blessed with a child. They, therefore, dedicated much of their time to prayer and fasting to beg God for a child. After much prayer and fasting, the angel of the Lord revealed to Ann that they will be blessed with a child that will be honored throughout the generations.
The commemoration of the feast of Mary’s birthday began in the fifth century in connection to the dedication of a Marian Basilica, the Basilica Sanctae Mariae ubi nata est, now called the Basilica of St. Anne in Jerusalem. From the seventh century, the feast began to be celebrated in Rome as the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Gradually and in different manner, the feast spread to different parts of the Universal Church.
The Dawn of Salvation in Mary
The feast we celebrate today is significant for the Church and for all the faithful. In the words of Pope Paul VI in Marialis Cultus, 1972, the birth of Mary is the “dawn of Salvation.” This is so as we know, Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is the redeemer and Son of God. On the same note of the dawn of salvation, today’s first reading from the prophecy of Micah (Mi 5,1-4) directs our mind to the prophecy of the birth of the Messiah who is Emmanuel, God with us.
The work of salvation is clear in the prophecy: He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the lord, in the majestic name of the lord, his God; And they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace. The Gospel (Mt 1,1-16, 18-23) reiterates the salvific work of God in the message of the angel to Joseph: 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.”
The Virtues of Mary
Catholics also commemorate Mary’s birthday for her significant virtues. She is special to the Church as the Mother of Jesus the savior. She is even more special to all the faithful as one who can best offer us an example and model of the Christian life. The primary event in Mary’s life always remains her docility and expression of faith. This when the message of the birth of Jesus was brought to her by the angel at the annunciation. Mary’s discipleship to God and to her Son could be seen through the trajectory of her life with Jesus. Above all, she is special in her attentiveness and closeness to Jesus her Son.
Mary is also a model of Christian Charity. In two occasions Mary proclaimed the presence of God. First, through visiting Elizabeth to offer charitable assistance. Second, by bringing relief to the couple in Cana on their wedding day. Through her faith and charity, she demonstrates that believers can find their refuge and comfort, help and protection in God. Like Mary, we have a share of God’s salvation. We are also predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. He who is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Like Mary, we are also justified through the power of God as heirs of salvation.
Do I ?
Do I believe in God’s promises and hope for their fulfillment? And, do I look up to God in every situation, even in the most difficult times? Am I courageous as Mary is in taking care of Jesus through the life of discipleship? Let us pray to Mary for her intercession with her son Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Let us celebrate the glories of the blessed virgin Mary at her birthday. And, make them our own by imitating her virtues. Hail Mary full of grace!