Yesterday (8th September) was the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The traditional date of the feast, September 8th, falls exactly nine months after the feast of the Immacaulate Conception of Mary. Perhaps because of its close proximity to the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not celebrated today with the same solemnity as the Immaculate Conception. It is, nonetheless, a very important feast, because it prepares the way for the birth of Christ. It is also an unusual feast, because it celebrates a birthday.
Why do we celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s birthday?
The feasts of saints are traditionally celebrated on the day of their death, because that is the date on which they entered into eternal life. And, indeed, we also celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary’s entrance into Heaven on August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption.
There are only three people whose birthdays have traditionally been celebrated by Christians. Jesus Christ, at Christmas, Saint John the Baptist; and the Blessed Virgin Mary. And we celebrate all three birthdays for the same reason: All three were born without original sin. Christ, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Mary, because she was kept free from the stain of Original Sin by the action of God in His foreknowledge that she would agree to be the mother of Christ; and Saint John, because he was blessed in the womb by the presence of his Savior when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to aid her cousin Elizabeth in the final months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (an event we celebrate in the feast of the Visitation.
The first picture on this blog post and the picture above show the Gospel reading for the feast day of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Book of the Gospels according to St Matthew. A short explanation of the Gospel reading can be found below:
Matthew 1:1–17 begins the Gospel, “A record of the origin of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…” and continues on until “…and Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ.”
Matthew emphasizes, right from the beginning, Jesus’ title Christ – the Greek rendering of the Hebrew title Messiah – meaning anointed, in the sense of an anointed king. Jesus is presented as the long-awaited Messiah, who was expected to be a descendant of King David. Matthew begins by calling Jesus the son of David, indicating his royal origin, and also son of Abraham, indicating that he was a Jew; both are stock phrases, in which son means descendant, calling to mind the promises God made to David and to Abraham.