“This day was born the glorious Virgin Mary, a child of the seed of Abraham, a daughter of the tribe of Judah, a princess of the lineage of David.” ~from the morning devotion for September 8, 2021, source
On September the eighth, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Can you imagine the joy of Our Lady’s parents, Saints Anne and Joachim, on the day of her birth? This is no ordinary baby, though we do love all ordinary babies, indeed; but this is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. This is a day for a party. The world has been blessed by God with the birth of the Mother of our Redeemer, who is also our mother. Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira (b. 1908- d. 1995) wrote on the topic of Our Lady’s birth:
“At the time of her birth, the world was laid groveling in the most radical Paganism. Vices prevailed, idolatry dominated everything, abomination had penetrated the Jewish religion itself, which was a presage of the Catholic Religion. The victory of evil and the Devil seemed almost complete. But at a certain moment God in His mercy decreed that Our Lady should be born. This was the equivalent of the beginning of the destruction of the reign of the Devil.
Our Lady was so important that her birthday marks a new era in the Old Covenant. The History of the Old Covenant was a long wait for the coming of the Messiah. After the original sin of our first parents, mankind had to wait 3,000 years, perhaps more, for the Messiah. But at a certain blessed moment, Divine Providence decreed that a woman should be born who would deserve the coming of the Messiah. Her nativity represents the entrance into the world of the perfect creature who found grace before God and had merit sufficient to end that extensive wait.
All the prayers, sufferings, and faithfulness of the just men living and dead reached their apex with her arrival. There had been Patriarchs, Prophets, just men among the Chosen People and certainly some just men among the Gentiles who had prayed, suffered, and waited; none of this was sufficient to attract the coming of the Redemption. But when God so willed it, He made the perfect creature be born to be the Mother of the Savior. Therefore, the entrance of this exquisite creature into the world marks the presage of the Redemption. The relationship between God and man began to change, and the gates of Heaven that had been tightly locked were semi-opened, permitting the light and breeze of hope to pass through.
Her birth represents the entrance into the world of a new grace, a new blessing, a new presence that was an incomparable presage of the presence, blessing and grace that would come with the Savior. For all these reasons the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady should be most dear to us. It is the event that announces the fall of Paganism.”
I noticed that the website One Peter Five has begun a new series which intends to revive traditional Catholic customs; and, today, they posted customs which pertain to the birthday of Our Lady. You might enjoy reading that entry, here. In a similar vein, I know of a parish in the United States which holds a yearly birthday party for Our Lady. The children love it, as do the adults!
Dom Prosper Gueranger had much to say about the birth of Our Lady as seen in the following quote from his book The Liturgical Year (source):
“Let us celebrate the Nativity of the Virgin Mary. Let us adore her Son, Christ our Lord.” Such is the invitation addressed to us today by the Church. Let us hearken to her call. Let us enter into her overflowing joy. The Bridegroom is at hand, for His throne is now set up on Earth. Yet a little while, and He will appear in the diadem of our human nature with which His Mother is to crown Him on the day of the joy of His heart, and of ours. Today, as on the glorious Assumption, the sacred Canticle is heard, but this time it belongs more to Earth than to Heaven.
Truly a better paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavour to enter you: your Cherubim may leave the gates and return to Heaven. What are your beautiful fruits to us since we cannot touch them without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us. Hail, new world, far surpassing in magnificence the first creation! Hail blessed haven where we find a calm after so many storms! Aurora dawns. The rainbow glitters in the heavens. The dove comes forth. The ark rests upon the Earth, offering new destinies to the world. The haven, the aurora, the rainbow, the dove, the ark of salvation, the paradise of the heavenly Adam, the creation of which the former was but a shadow: all this are you, sweet infant, in whom already dwell all grace, all truth, all life.
You are the little cloud which the father of prophets in the suppliant anguish of his soul awaited, and you bring refreshment to the parched earth. Under the weakness of your fragile form appears the Mother of fair love and of holy hope. You are that other light cloud of exquisite fragrance, which our desert sends up to Heaven. In the incomparable humility of your soul, which knows not itself, the angels, standing like armed warriors around your cradle, recognise their Queen. O Tower of the true David, citadel withstanding the first shock of Satan’s attack and breaking all his power! True Sion founded on the holy mountains, the highest summits of virtue. Temple and palace feebly foreshadowed by those of Solomon. House built by eternal Wisdom for herself: the faultless lines of your fair architecture were planned from all eternity. Together with Emmanuel who predestined you for His home of delights, you are yourself, O blessed child, the crowning point of creation, the divine ideal fully realised on Earth!
Let us, then, understand the Church when, even on this day, she proclaims your divine maternity and unites in her chants of praise the birth of Emmanuel and your own. He who, being Son of God by essence, willed to be also Son of man, had, before all other designs, decreed that He would have a Mother. Such, consequently, was the primordial, absolute character of that title of mother that, in the eternal decree, it was one with the very being of the chosen creature, the motive and cause of her existence, as well as the source of all her perfections natural and supernatural. We too, then, must recognise you as Mother, even from your very cradle, and must celebrate your birthday by adoring your Son our Lord. Inasmuch as it embraces all the brethren of the Man-God, your blessed maternity sheds its rays upon all time, both before and after this happy day. “God is our king before ages: He has wrought salvation in the midst of the earth” (Psalm lxxiii. 12). “The midst of the earth,” says the Abbot of Clairvaux, “admirably represents Mary. Mary is the centre of the universe, the ark of God, the cause of creation, the business of ages. Towards her turn the inhabitants of Heaven and the dwellers in the place of expiation, the men that have gone before us, and we that are now living, those who are to follow us, our children’s children and their descendants. Those in Heaven look to her to have their ranks filled up. Those in Purgatory look for their deliverance. The men of the first ages, that they may be found faithful prophets. Those who come after, that they may obtain eternal happiness. Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Sovereign of the world, all generations will call you blessed, for you have brought forth life and glory for all. In you the angels ever find their joy, the just find grace, sinners pardon. In you, and by you, and from you, the merciful hand of the Almighty has reformed the first creation.”
Andrew of Crete calls this day a solemnity of entrance, a feast of beginning whose end is the union of the Word with our flesh, a virginal feast, full of joy and confidence for all. “All ye nations, come here,” cries Saint John Damascene, “come every race and every tongue, every age and every dignity, let us joyfully celebrate the birthday of the world’s gladness.” “It is the beginning of salvation, the origin of every feast,” says Saint Peter Damian, “for behold! the Mother of the Bridegroom is born. With good reason does the whole world rejoice today, and the Church, beside herself, bids her choirs sing wedding songs.”
I noticed that the Tradition in Action website had a new article up about the birthday of Our Lady, and I found this section to be quite interesting:
Many Italian cities and villages have a special devotion to Our Lady’s Nativity. In the hilly Langhe region in Piedmont, candles are placed in the windows of every house in the towns and the surrounding countryside. Bonfires are also lit on every hilltop in the area giving a glorious tribute to Holy Mary whose birth brought light to the world. (9)
Devotion to Maria Bambina (the Infant Mary) is a charming devotion that began in Italy and spread throughout Christendom. This devotion began as early as the 11th century when the church of Santa Maria Fulcorina in the Diocese of Milan was dedicated to the “mystery of the Nativity of Mary” in the year 1007. Five hundred years later, St. Charles Borromeo consecrated the Cathedral of Milan, dedicating it to the Nativity of Holy Mary (Santa Maria Nascenti).
These official acts of honoring Our Lady’s Nativity led to the custom of making representations of Our Lady as an infant. This custom was especially popular during the Counter-Reformation.
In 1735, a Poor Clare Sister from Todi, Italy, whose name was Sr. Isabella Chiara Formari, made a wax depiction of the Maria Bambina. That image passed through the hands of many devotees until it was entrusted to the Sisters of Charity who brought the Bambina to their Motherhouse in Milan in 1876.
This Maria Bambina was exposed for veneration for the first time on September 8, 1884, and taken to the infirmary for the night to comfort the sick sisters there. A novice who was unable to move because of her serious illness begged the Infant Mary for the grace for her recovery. She was immediately and miraculously cured.
At the same time, the image itself miraculously changed colors from the faded dull gray facial hue to the vibrant colors of a infant’s face. Soon many pilgrims began to flock to her chapel to ask for favors. (10)
The devotion gained in popularity and the custom spread of presenting a small wax Maria Bambina as a gift to newly-married couples. In France, the statue came to be placed on cushions under a glass globe, the Globe de Marie, which was also given to newly-married couples. (source with more customs for Our Lady’s birthday)
There are many customs associated with this feast, and hopefully we will see a revival of them in our times.
May you have a happy feast of the Nativity of Mary!
Happy birthday, Blessed Virgin Mary!
~Image of baby Mary (top of post), information and source. Marian party image from K. Anne. Flower image (top of post) from A. Therese.