September 7, 2017

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Birth of the Virgin Mary

Feast Day - September 8th

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated since approximately the 6th century, although there are other, conflicting accounts of when this particular feast came to observed. It likely originated in the Eastern Church in response to the Council of Ephesus, in which Mary was officially proclaimed "Mother of God" (Theotokos). It is thought that the date of September 8th was chosen because the Eastern Church year begins in September. Later, this feast would help to determine the date of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

There is an apocryphal story associated with the birth of our Lady, found in the Protoevangelium of St. James. Though not historical in origin, it does reflect the piety of the times. According to this account, Anna, who was barren, and Joachim prayed in earnest for a child; as often happened in biblical accounts, the child they were blessed with was given to them to advance God’s plan for salvation.

"Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father’s immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse" (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).

On the nativity of Mary, the Church solemnly recalls the first manifestation of redemption with the appearance of the Savior's mother. A sermon by Saint Sophronius, a 7th century bishop, observes that through Mary the Father's blessing has shone forth on mankind: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you. What joy could surpass this, O Virgin Mother? What grace can excel that which God has granted to you alone? What could be imagined more dazzling or more delightful? Before the miracle we witness in you, all else pales; all else is inferior when compared with the grace you have been given. All else, even what is most desirable, must take second place and enjoy a lesser importance."

Indeed, Mary is the "New Eve" foretold in Genesis, whose seed (Christ) will crush the serpent's head. Impart to your servants, we pray, O Lord, the gift of heavenly grace, that the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin may bring deeper peace to those for whom the birth of her Son was the dawning of salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you, together in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen. Most Holy Theotokos, pray for us.

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