Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On September 8 the Catholic Church celebrates the birth or nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, nine months after the December 8 celebration of her Immaculate Conception. Celebration of the feast of Mary’s nativity dates back as early as the sixth century.
While the circumstances of the Virgin Mary's infancy and early life are not directly recorded in the Bible, there are other documents and traditions describing the circumstances of her birth as detailed in some of the earliest Christian writers from the first centuries of the Church. Even though they are not considered authoritative in the same manner as the Bible, many of these ancient texts outline some of the Church's traditional beliefs about the birth of Mary. For example, these extra biblical writings relate the fact that the parents of Mary are Saint Joachim and Saint Anne.
In our day, one may be tempted to ask why we would celebrate this feast, perhaps with a concern that too much attention is given to Mary, thus drawing attention away from Jesus. There are many responses that one could give to this objection, but let us mention only a few. One reason for celebrating the nativity of Mary is that, as Saint Augustine and others have explained, Mary’s birth is truly the birth of our salvation because we know that Mary went on to give birth to Jesus, our Savior. In the eighth century, Ambrose Autpert suggested that if we celebrate the feasts of the martyrs, how much more, then, should we celebrate the Mother of the Prince of martyrs. Autpert states even more strongly that, even if all of our bodily members were turned into tongues, Mary could never be praised sufficiently, for she is higher than the heavens and deeper than the abyss because she has contained God, whom no creature can contain, in her womb.
Considering what such truths about Mary have to offer us, let us consider the rich and succinct advice found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.” (CCC 487)
As we prayerfully celebrate this beautiful feast honoring Mary’s entrance onto the stage of salvation history, let us endeavor to imitate her, who pondered all these things in her heart.