Today we celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A truly special day in our liturgical calendar as Catholics as this feast has deep roots in our Catholic history and identity.
A Brief History
It’s origins are thought to have been established in Palestine, during the consecration of what was considered to be the current Basilica of St. Ann. The feast itself, however, was not kept in Rome until the 7th century. From there it gradually spread and became Solemnity with a Major Octave, and a Vigil preceding it in the 13th Century. Changes made by Pope Pius X reduced the octave to a simple one, and was eventually removed altogether under the reforms set in place by Pope Pius XII in 1955.
While it’s liturgical significance has changed greatly throughout history, it has always been seen as a joyful and bright celebration of the coming fulfillment of the New Covenant that Christ would work through Mary.
St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete in the 7th Century describes the meaning of the feast day in his sermon saying:
“Let there now be one common festal celebration in both heaven and on earth. Let everything now celebrate, that which is in the world and that beyond the world. Now is made the created temple for the Creator of all; and creation is readied into a new Divine habitation for the Creator. Now our nature having been banished from the land of blessedness receives the principle of theosis and strives to rise up to the highest glory.”
And again we see in the Antiphon for Second Vespers for this feast day the comparison of Mary to that rose-colored dawn that would precede the Sun of Salvation, Jesus:
“Thy Nativity, O Virgin Mother of God,
announced joy to the whole world:
For out of thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God,
who paying for the curse, gave blessing,
and confounding death, gave us life eternal.”
It is also significant to note that this feast day is only one of the only three that celebrates birthdays in the Church, an honor Our Lady shares with her beloved and adorable Son, Jesus (December 25), and the Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24). The reason for this is thought to be because only these three were born without original sin (it has been considered that when Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin felt John leap for joy in her womb he was also cleansed of original sin, meaning he was born without it. This still leaves Mary as the only woman to be concieved without original sin).
How Do We Celebrate?
Go to Mass
The highest prayer we can offer as Catholics is our participation in the sacrifice of the mass. Many parishes will celebrate the Feast during their daily mass today. We give joy to Our Blessed Mother when we adore her Holy Son, so visiting him in the Most Blessed Sacrament would be a wonderful birthday present to give her.
Deepen Your Faith
Spend some time learning more about Our Lady through spiritual reading. There are innumerable books on Marian devotions and methods by which we can deepen our relationship with the Blessed Mother. If you haven’t picked one up in a while consider doing so. My personal recommendation is “The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary” a compilation of the visions of Venerable Ann Catherine Emmerich.
Call Your Mother
Most mommas will get a call from their kids on their birthday even if they can’t be physically together to celebrate. Take some time to call your mother, and by that I mean speak to Mary through prayer, tell her about your life, your struggles. Traditionally, it was customary to request a favor of Our Lady on this feast day as a sort of reverse birthday gift. The reason being that Mary treasures our conversations with her, and bestows her love and affection on those who take the time to celebrate with her in their own small way.
Happiest of Birthdays, Sweet Mother, on this glorious Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary!