During this month of September, the month of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us ask of our good Lord to give us a true contrition for our sins and fervent gratitude for His great Goodness! This coming Tuesday, September 8, we celebrate the Feast of the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
September 8 - The Birthday of Our Lady: Initially in the Eastern Church and subsequently in the Universal Church, the faithful have celebrated the birthday of our Blessed Mother from the earliest centuries of Christianity. This special Feast of the Mother of God and our Mother is an occasion of great joy because Mary’s arrival is a sign that the Redemption is drawing near. On this day, many peoples and nations honor Our Lady as their Patroness.
Joy over the birth of Our Lady: Let us celebrate with joyful hearts the birth of the Virgin Mary of whom was born the Sun of justice, Christ our Lord. (Entrance Antiphon)
Ever since the ancient inception of this Feast the liturgical texts invite us to rejoice today with uplifted hearts. (cf. J Pascher, The Liturgical Year, Madrid 1965) This makes sense. We exult on the Blessed Mother’s birthday just as family, friends and neighbors delight in the birth of a newborn child. Besides, so happy an event is a foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah yet to be born. As the dawn before sunrise, Mary is the Morning Star who precedes the Savior, the Sun of Justice, into the history of the human race. (cf. John Paul II, Encyclical, Redemptoris Mater, 3) An ancient writer observes: The most significant deed of God’s coming to dwell among men certainly required a joyful prelude to introduce for us the great gift of salvation. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is this prelude. The final act is the foreordained union of the Word with flesh…Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in Heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebra- tion. (Liturgy of the Hours, Second Reading, St. Andrew of Crete, 1)
The Liturgy of the Mass calls the newborn Virgin the fulfillment of God’s design in calling all men to everlasting life. (Rom. 8:28-30) From all eternity, the Blessed Trinity predestines Mary to be the Mother of the Son. God adorns her with all graces for this purpose. She is the most beautiful fully human soul ever created, second only to the Incarnation of the Word. (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Glories of Mary, II, 2) God gives each person the necessary strength for a specific mission in the world. (cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, 3, q27, a5) Given Mary’s exalted vocation, her grace from the time of her conception surpasses that bestowed on all the angels and saints together. Her tremendous participation in the Divine Nature was proportional to the singular dignity to which God called her from all eternity. (cf. ibid., 3, q7, a10) St. Bernard deduces: Mary’s sanctity and beauty were so superlative that it was fitting God be her Son and she His Mother. (cf. St. Bernard, Sermon 4 on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 5) St. Bonaventure affirms: God could have made a greater world, but He could not have made a Mother more perfect than the Mother of God. (St. Bonaventure, Speculum, 8)
May we too remember that we have received a personal call to sanctity from God to fulfil a specific mission in the world. Besides the joy of contemplating the plentitude of Our Lady’s grace we should not forget that God gives unfailingly to each person sufficient grace to bring a specific mission in the world to completion.
We may also consider how reasonable it is to celebrate our own birthday, since God explicitly wanted us to be born and called us to never-ending happiness and love.
Mary’s birth leads us to have deep respect for every human being.
Lord, may your Church renewed in this Holy Eucharist be filled with joy at the birth of the Virgin Mary who brought the Dawn of Hope and Salvation to the world. (Roman Missal, Prayer after Communion)
How old is Our Lady? As with God, time no longer has any significance for her. She has reached the fullness of age, the eternal youth born of participation in the constantly fresh vigor of the Divine Nature. As St. Augustine teaches: The Almighty is younger than all (St. Augustine, Homily on Genesis, 9, 26, 48), precisely because He is immutable. Perhaps we have seen for ourselves the joy and interior youth of a holy person. We are amazed how strength of heart surges with boundless energy from a body that perhaps bears the weight of many years. The greater the personal union with God, the deeper such a habitual disposition can be. As the creature most closely united to Christ, Mary is certainly the youngest of all. When we seek God directly, when we turn ad Deum qui laetificat iuventutem meam, to the One who rejuvenates us each day and fills us with joy (Ps. 42:4), youth and maturity coalesce in us too.
From the time of her adolescence, the Blessed Virgin enjoyed full spiritual maturity in proportion to her age. Now in Heaven, in the plenitude of her initial grace and that merited through union with the work of her Son, she keeps watch over us and lends her ear to our praise and petition. Today, she listens to the thanksgiving we offer to God for creating her. She looks on us and understands our life since, after God, she is the one who knows most about our weariness and struggles. (cf. A. Orozco, About Mary, Madrid 1975)
Most parents believe their newborn infant is the most special child in the world. Saints Joachim and Anne must have thought so when Mary was born too. They certainly were not mistaken. All genera- tions will call her blessed: Little did her parents realize how great was the fruit of their chaste love. And they never grasped it in their lifetime. Who indeed can predict what is to become of a new-born babe? No one knows for sure. (ibid., p. 9) The future of every child is mysterious: Each one is entrusted by the Creator with a specific task to carry out in the world.
Today’s Feast should induce us to revere the life of every human being. Parents cooperate in the act of procreation, and God infuses a unique immortal soul at the moment of conception. On the birthday of the Mother of God, the great joy we feel and celebrate bears with it a serious responsibility. We should be glad to learn when a child comes into being in a mother’s womb, and rejoice when it enters the world. Even when the arrival of a new-born implies hardship, entails renunciations, or presents restrictions and burdens, the child should always be accepted and feel safe in the love of its parents. (John Paul II, Address, 8 November 1985) Every human being is called to become aware of our Divine Filiation, to give God glory, and ultimately to enjoy Everlasting Happiness.
God the Father rejoiced infinitely when a human creature full of grace was born, destined to become the Mother of the Eternal Son. The woman was free from original sin and most chaste. Although God granted Joachim and Anne special joy as a participation in the grace poured out on their daughter now born into the world like all others, what would they have felt if they had had an inkling of her vocation? More to the point, how much we should appreciate the immeasurable efficacy of our own passage through life, if we remain faithful to the grace we receive to enable us to carry out the mission granted us through the eternal Providence of God.
The value of ordinary things.
Nothing spectacular accompanied Mary’s birth. The Gospels make no mention of it. She was born in a city of Galilee, probably in Nazareth itself. No extraordinary revelation took place. The world continued giving importance to other events which would soon fade and vanish from all memory. What is most important in the eyes of God often passes unnoticed by men, who commonly seek extraordinary things in order to carry on their existence. Only in Heaven was there rejoicing on Mary’s birthday. And a great celebration it must have been.
The Blessed Virgin spent many years of her life in obscurity. All Israel awaited the Handmaid foretold in Sacred Scripture (cf. Gen. 3:15; Is. 7:14) without realizing her actual presence among men. Judging from appearances she hardly differed at all from others in the small town. She had free will and was capable of love, but she loved with an intensity hard for us to appreciate. Moreover, her desires were always in keeping with the Love of God.
The Blessed Mother was intelligent. She placed her mind at the service of the mysteries she gradually grew to understand more deeply. Our Lady could learn, like other girls, to sew and to cook. Moreover, she would have been able to grasp the perfect relationship between the wonders she witnessed and the prophecies referring to the Redeemer. We know she could remember and make use of specific incidents, passing from one event to another in her mind’s eye. She pondered all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:51) The most Blessed Virgin must have had a vivid imagination to spur her on to a life of initiatives and simple genius in serving others. She must have known how to make life more pleasant for others, especially when sickness or misfortune would arise. Mary, moreover would have rejoiced in carrying out her mundane duties. For the most part, they would be unnoticed, but she was well aware that God lovingly contemplated her while she carried out those countless daily tasks. By reflecting on her daily life we are led to realise that
we do our ordinary work in the presence of God. We will serve others
without fanfare, finish our work well, and avoid looking out for our
entitlements and privileges all the time. By imitating Our Lady, we
learn to understand the value of little things done every day out of
love. We approach with a supernatural spirit ordinary acts that
normally do not stand out at all. It takes only a minute to put some
household furnishing in order. Updating information on a computer is
soon over and done with. Making up the bed of a sick person is a brief
task. Finding the exact citations for the lesson we are preparing takes
just a little more time…Such small tasks, done with affection to please
God, draw down Divine Mercy on us and on our friends. They can be
occasions we frequently renew for increasing sanctifying grace in our
soul. Mary is the finished example of fidelity in the ongoing process
of our sanctification which consists in making the whole of our life
into a fit offering to the Lord. (John Paul II, A ddress, 12 October 1979)
Many people throughout the world fervently celebrate our Blessed
Mother’s birthday. St. Peter Damian teaches: Just as Solomon and the
chosen people celebrated the dedication of the Temple with great and
solemn sacrifice, so should we be filled with joy at the birth of Mary.
Her womb was a most holy temple. There, God received His Human
Nature and thus entered visibly into the world of men. (St. Pater
Damian, Sermon 45, 4) May we shower Our Lady with the details of
affection that should be second nature to her children. (From: In
Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph,
St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace to console the