Happy Birthday Mary!
DID YOU KNOW that the Church only celebrates two saints’ birthdays—John the Baptist on June 24th and Mary the Mother of Jesus, which we celebrate today, September 8th—exactly nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Although the circumstances of the Virgin Mary's infancy and early life are not directly recorded in Sacred Scripture, other documents and traditions describing the circumstances of her birth are cited by some of the earliest Christian writers from the first centuries of the Church. We primarily draw from Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel written about A.D.150, as our source. It is here that we learn the names of Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, as well as the tradition that the couple was childless until an angel appeared to Anna and told her that she would conceive. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God's plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the special presence of God in Mary's life* from the beginning.
We actually began celebrating Mary’s birthday around the sixth century, when St. Romanos the Melodist, an Eastern Christian who composed many of the hymns used in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox liturgies, composed a hymn for the feast. The feast spread to Rome in the seventh century, but it was a couple more centuries before it was celebrated throughout the West.
As we honor Mary and celebrate her birthday, we can reflect on St. Augustine’s words as he described the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an event of cosmic and historic significance, and an appropriate prelude to the birth of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine wrote, “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley…”
Augustine described Mary as being the flower of the field that blossomed into Jesus the Christ. How is God present and manifested* in our lives today? Are we blooming?