This September 8th, the Church celebrated the birth of Mary. There are only three people in the church’s liturgical calendar that we celebrate their births on earth: Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary. This is because we profess that these three were born without original sin. Jesus, being God, could never have a sin. John the Baptist, though conceived with original sin, was purified by Jesus in the womb of Elizabeth, when Mary visited, and thus was born without sin. Finally, Mary was conceived without sin, the Immaculate Conception (December 8th), and born without any sin.
Mary’s birthday has been celebrated in the Church, since the beginning of the sixth century. And logically, it has been placed nine months after her Immaculate Conception.
Though Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth, the apocryphal “Protoevangelium of James” gives us a picture of Joachim and Anna (feast day July 26), the parents of Mary. According to this account, Joachim and Anna are childless. Together, they prayed to God for a child and they receive the promise of a child who will bring God’s plan of salvation into the world. This event, like the bible, stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning of her Immaculate Conception.
It isn’t just the “Protoevangelium of James” that sings the praises of Mary’s birth, St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. He wrote, “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.”
As the Church honors the birthday of Mary this weekend, we should recognize how this feast day brought new hope into the world. We profess that Jesus is the Perfect Day; it only follows that Mary is the dawn of that Perfect Day. Celebrate this feast by praying a Hail Mary, or your favorite Marian prayer, because, 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 Christ in our hearts and in the world at large.
In the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
Fr. Andrew Heiman