Wednesday, 8 September, is the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary – a great day to go to Mass, if you can.
The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The 8 September date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8 December.
Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth, but the Protoevangelium of James (apocryphal) fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety.
This account suggests that Anna and Joachim are both infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story, like many biblical counterparts, stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.
Saint Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.
Through Mary’s birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation, and asks for an increase of peace.
The prayers of the Mass provide a biblical foundation for this feast. In the opening Collect, the Church prays that this feast “may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation.” The same theme is found in the Introit or Entrance Antiphon, which refers to Mary from whom “arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.”
The focal point of this feast is Jesus Christ, the Son of God born of Mary. From her, as the Prayer over the Gifts says, Jesus Christ “was pleased to take flesh.”
The liturgy of this feast reminds us of what the Second Vatican Council said in its document on the liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, that Mary is inseparably linked with her Son’s saving work.
An ancient Preface – although one not incorporated into the Roman Missal – says: Today we celebrate that happy day on which the glorious and immaculate Mother of God appeared in the world like a shining star. After the sin of the first woman, there was finally opened to us the long desired gate of life and we have been called by the Son of the Virgin Mary out of the darkness into the joy of eternal light.
Let us keep this day, then, in Mary’s honour, thankful for her prayers and asking her intercession for all our needs.