Skip to comments.Meditation on the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Posted on 09/07/2010 9:14:39 PM PDT by Salvation
The History of the Liturgical Celebration of Mary's Birth
[Mary's Birth; Master of the Pfullendorf Altar]
The Churches of Constantinople in the East and Rome in the West celebrate liturgies in honor of Mary's birth from the sixth and seventh centuries on. The origin of the liturgy is traced to the consecration of the church in Jerusalem in the sixth century that has been traditionally known as St. Ann's Basilica. The original church built in the fifth century was a Marian basilica erected on the spot known as the shepherd's field and thought to have been the home of Mary's parents. After its destruction and reconstruction in the sixth century, the basilica was named in honor of St. Ann.
By the seventh century the liturgy was also celebrated in Rome where it had been introduced by monks from the East. From there, it spread throughout the West, and by the thirteenth century the liturgy had developed to a solemnity with a major octave (eight days of commemoration prior to the liturgy) and a solemn vigil which prescribed a fastday. Pope Sergius I (687-701) established a procession (a litania) from the Roman Forum to St. Mary Major for the feast.
During the reform of St. Pius X, the octave was simplified, and in 1955 Pius XII abolished it. The liturgy received the rank of feast.
The date, September 8, was chosen as the eighth day (an octave) after the former Byzantine New Year. Although Mary's birth was celebrated on various dates throughout the centuries, September 8 predominated. The feast celebrating Mary's Immaculate Conception, December 8, (a liturgy instituted later) was set to correspond to nine months before Mary's birth.
In the East, Mary's birthday is celebrated as one of the twelve great liturgies. The title for the liturgy in the East: "The Birth of Our Exalted Queen, the Birthgiver of God and Ever-Virgin Mary." Around 560, Romanos the Melodist wrote a Kontakion for the celebration. The oldest existing sermon for the liturgy was written by St. Andrew of Crete:
[Geburt Mariae; Marx Reichlich]
The present feast forms a link between the New and the Old Testament. It shows that Truth succeeds symbols and figures and that the New Covenant replaces the Old. Hence, all creation sings with joy, exalts, and participates in the joy of this day. ... This is, in fact, the day on which the Creator of the world constructed His temple; today is the day on which, by a stupendous project, a creature becomes the preferred dwelling of the Creator.
The responsory for the liturgy proclaims:
Your birth, Birthgiver of God, announced joy to the whole world. From you came the Sun of Justice, Christ our God. He released the curse and gave the blessing.
The Spiritual Tradition Regarding Mary's Birth
Sacred Scripture does not record Mary's birth. The earliest known writing regarding Mary's birth is found in the Protoevangelium of James (5:2), which is an apocryphal writing from the late second century. What matters is not the historicity of the account, but the significance of Mary's and of every person's birth. In Mary's case, the early Church grew more and more interested in the circumstances surrounding the origin of Christ. Discussion about Mary throws light on the discussion about the identity of Jesus Christ.
The Church usually celebrates the passing of a person, that is, the person's entry into eternal life. Besides the birth of Christ, the Christian liturgy celebrates only two other birthdays: that of St. John the Baptizer and of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. It is not the individual greatness of these saints that the Church celebrates, but their role in salvation history, a role directly connected to the Redeemer's own coming into the world.
Mary's birth lies at the confluence of the two Testaments--bringing to an end the stage of expectation and the promises and inaugurating the new times of grace and salvation in Jesus Christ. Mary, the Daughter of Zion and ideal personification of Israel, is the last and most worthy representative of the People of the Old Covenant but at the same time she is "the hope and the dawn of the whole world." With her, the elevated Daughter of Zion, after a long expectation of the promises, the times are fulfilled and a new economy is established. (Lumen Gentium 55)
The birth of Mary is ordained in particular toward her mission as Mother of the Savior. Her existence is indissolubly connected with that of Christ: it partakes of a unique plan of predestination and grace. God's mysterious plan regarding the Incarnation of the Word embraces also the Virgin who is His Mother. In this way, the Birth of Mary is inserted at the very heart of the History of Salvation. (M. Valentini, Dictionary of Mary, pp. 36-7.)
Representations of Mary's Birth in Art
Mary's birth is usually included as one panel in art series on Mary's lifestory; however, it is also a theme depicted by itself. The oldest known representation is on a sixth century diptych in Leningrad. From the very beginning, the paintings were modeled on the type used for the birth of Christ, where the mother is in a lying position. Instead of a landscape, a cave or a stable as in the birth of Christ, various types of architectural structures are depicted which represent an interior dwelling place. Ann, the mother of Mary, is lying on a couch or on a bed. Usually, servants are busy bathing the child. Starting around 980 the compositions depict three women. One very simple painting, the so-called Berlin diptych from the early twelfth century, shows a servant handing Ann a bowl, while the child lays all tucked in on a little bed. These representations show the natural and joyful event of Mary's birth.
[Anne Conceiving the Virgin; Bellegambe]
Other works place the stress on the destiny of the child and the teachings of the faith. Pietro Lorenzetti (1342, Siena, Museum dell'Opera del Duomo) places the birth in a side room of a church. On Wolf Huber's Field Church altar, angels participate in the birth through an opening in the heavens. Albrecht Altdorfer places Mary's birth in a church with pillars surrounded by angels (1525, Munich, Alte Pinakothek). During the baroque and the rococo periods, heaven and earth unite in the paintings in happy profusion at Mary's birth.
[Birth of the Virgin (detail); Murillo]
During the later periods, especially after the fifteenth century, the representations of the birth of Mary highlight her destiny as the immaculate virgin, the child predestined by God's choice to bear the God-man, Jesus Christ. The words of the mystic, Mary of Agreda (1602-1665), describe well the way art would attempt to depict this birth. Mary of Agreda wrote, "Not only was the Word conceived before all these by eternal generation from the Father, but His temporal generation from the Virgin Mother full of grace, had already been decreed and conceived in the divine mind. Inasmuch as no efficacious and complete decree of this temporal generation could exist without at the same time including his Mother, such a Mother, the most holy Mary, was then and there conceived within that beautiful immensity, and her eternal record was written in the bosom of the Divinity, in order that for all the ages it should never be blotted out. She was stamped and delineated in the mind of the eternal Artificer and possessed the inseparable embraces of his love."
The Prayer of the Church
The Church prays at midday in the Liturgy of the Hours:
In many cultures, the birthday of every person merits a celebration. Family and friends gather to wish the "birthday child" many happy returns. There are well-wishing, balloons, cards, cakes, candles, a favorite meal, there are gifts and jests--all the things that say, at least once a year, "You are special, there's only one of you, we are happy that you exist." So, it is for the people of God and Mary.
The Byzantine Daily Worship gives us the following prayer:
[Birth of the Virgin; The Hours of Catherine of Cleves]
Come, all you faithful, let us hasten to the Virgin: for long before her conception in the womb, the one who was to be born of the stem of Jesse was destined to be the Mother of God. The one who is the treasury of virginity, the flowering Rod of Aaron, the object of the prophecies, the child of Joachim and Anne, is born today and the world is renewed in her. Through her birth, she floods the church with her splendor. O holy Temple, Vessel of the Godhead, Model of virgins and Strength of kings: in you the wondrous union of the two natures of Christ was realized. We worship Him and glorify your most pure birth, and we magnify you. (441-442)
Author: Father Johann G. Roten, S.M.
Sources: Christopher O'Donnell, At Worship with Mary; E. Sebald, "Kunstgeschichte," and L. Heiser, "Liturgie Ost," and Th. Mass-Ewerd, "Liturgie West," in Marienlexikon 2; A. Valentini, Dictionary of Mary; Jean Guitton, The Madonna.
The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
Feast of the Nativity of Mary [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
September 8 - The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary [Catholic Caucus]
The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary; September 8
BIRTH OF MARY, September 8th
Orthodox Feast of The Nativity of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary September 8
September 8, 2004 - Feast of the Birth of Mary
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE GREAT MOTHER OF GOD, MARY MOST HOLY!
Devotion To The Holy Infant Mary
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
You might be interested in this article.
Troparion (Tone 4)
Today from the stem of Jesse and from the loins of David,
The handmaid of God Mary is being born for us.
Therefore all creation is renewed and rejoices!
Heaven and earth rejoice together.
Praise her, you families of nations,
For Joachim rejoices and Anna celebrates crying out:
“The barren one gives birth to the Theotokos, the Nourisher of our life!”
Kontakion (Tone 3)
Today the Virgin Theotokos Mary
The bridal chamber of the Heavenly Bridegroom
By the will of God is born of a barren woman,
Being prepared as the chariot of God the Word.
She was fore-ordained for this, since she is the divine gate and the true Mother of Life.
The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Birth of the Virgin Mary - Esteban Murillo (Louvre, Paris)
Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
from The Divine Office - Matins (Morning Prayer)
The Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated in the Church at least since the 8th Century. The Church's calendar observes the birthdays of only two saints: Saint John the Baptist (June 24), and Mary, Mother of Jesus.
John the Baptist is considered especially sanctified even before his birth. His birth to Elizabeth and Zachariah is foretold in the first chapter of Luke, and it is also recorded (Lk 1:41) that Elizabeth felt the infant John "leap in her womb" when Mary approached her soon after the Annunciation.
The birth of Mary was also miraculous. She was conceived without sin as a special grace because God had selected her to become the mother of His Son (the feast of her Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8). The dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, though generally believed throughout the Church for many centuries, was formally declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
There is nothing contained in Scripture about the birth of Mary or her parentage, though Joseph's lineage is given in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The names of Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in the apocryphal "Gospel of James", a book dating from the 2nd Century AD, not part of the authentic canon of Scripture. According to this account, Joachim and Anna were also beyond the years of child-bearing, but prayed and fasted that God would grant their desire for a child.
According to one tradition, the house in which Mary was born in Nazareth is the same one in which the Annunciation took place. By another tradition, the Annunciation site is beneath the Crusader church of Saint Anna in Jerusalem, under a 3rd Century oratory known as the "Gate of Mary".
In celebrating the nativity of Mary, Christians anticipate the Incarnation and birth of her Divine Son, and give honor to the mother of Our Lord and Savior.
Readings of the Day
Father of mercy,
give your people help and strength from heaven.
The birth of the Virgin Mary's Son
was the dawn of our salvation.
May this celebration of her birthday
bring us closer to lasting peace.
Grant this though our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
First Reading: Micah 5:1-4a
Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike upon the cheek the ruler of Israel.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in travail has brought forth; then the rest of his brethren shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
or Romans 8:28-30
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Gospel Reading: Long Form Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23 [Short form Matthew 1:18-23]
[The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of She-alti-el, and She-alti-el the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.]
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).
Family Observance of the Feast of the Birth of Mary
Mary's Birthday Cake
All children love birthday cakes -- so today, let's make a birthday cake for the Blessed Virgin Mary. A white layer cake or angel food cake would be appropriate, with white icing and blue icing for trim (white is a symbol of purity; blue symbolizes fidelity, and is a color especially used for Mary). We suggest letting the children help with the decorations, if possible. If you have a small statue of Mary, it could be placed in the center of the cake, which can be surrounded by 10 candles -- one for each "Hail Mary" prayer in a decade of the Rosary. (If you don't have a little statue, you can write Mary's name on the cake in blue icing.)
At the end of the evening meal, each child could take turns lighting the 10 candles as the whole family prays together a "Hail Mary" for each candle, ending with the Lord's Prayer.
If the children are too young to light candles, mother could light the candles, then the adults could pray one Hail Mary at the end, just before the cake is cut. After eating the birthday cake, the prayer below could be said (this prayer, the concluding prayer from "Matins" of the Divine Office, could also be said with the children at bedtime).
the day of our salvation dawned
when the Blessed Virgin gave birth to your Son.
As we celebrate her nativity
grant us your grace and your peace.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
If your family doesn't say the Angelus regularly before the evening meal, this would be a good day to introduce it. (Then say it on all Feasts of Mary and every day during the penitential seasons of Advent and Lent.) Click here to see the Angelus that you may print out for your family.
School-aged children could begin to learn the traditional Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A good time to say the litany together might be after homework is finished in the evening, just before bedtime. A litany is an ancient form of prayer read or chanted by a group, with a leader saying the versicles, and the rest of the group saying the responses.
This would be a good time to get out the children's "baby books", which usually need updating. Go through the birthday book with your child, and do some reminiscing. Each child could make a drawing of their idea of baby Mary and her family, which could be pasted in their own birthday book as a memento. (Don't forget to have them put their name and age on the pictures!)
If you have a nice statue of Mary, or a "Mary shrine" in your home, it would be appropriate to decorate it with flowers and candles today, in celebration of Mary's birthday. The family can gather around it during the reciting of the litany or other prayers -- and conclude by singing the lovely hymn, Mary the Dawn. (Click on the title here to see both the words and music to this hymn.)
Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, heralded joy to all the world.
True Theotokos, we magnify thee!!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.