08 Sept, Thursday, The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary
It is not certain exactly when or where Our Lady was born; but it was most likely about sixteen years before the birth of Jesus, and in Nazareth, where St Luke’s Gospel locates her, as she received God’s message from the angel. It was only after the Council of Ephesus in 431 – when Mary was designated as “Theotokos” (“Mother of God”) – that devotion to her spread far and wide in the Western Church. But well before that time, the exceptional circumstances of her birth were remembered and celebrated among the Christians of Palestine.
An ancient Christian text, the “Protevangelium of James” might suggest that Mary was born near Jerusalem, since her parents, Joachim and Anne, brought her to the temple at a very early age. Today would be a good time to read that Protevangelium (pre-Gospel) story, to share its warm, devotional reflection upon the special grace attending Mary’s birth. The author, probably a Jewish Christian in the second century, tells of her parents eagerly longing for a child; and when eventually God granted her to them, they wished to dedicate her, body and soul, to the service of God in the Jerusalem temple.
She, who was to bring our Savior into the world, would provide a loving tabernacle of flesh for the living God – for in her womb, by the power of the Spirit, the incarnate Son of God was conceived and borne. As his greatness would reach to the ends of the earth, so (says the Protevangelium) the grace of God was visible in his mother, from the beginning.
According to this text, when Mary’s father, Joachim, brought his offerings in the temple, he looked closely at the breastplate of the high priest as he went up to the altar of the Lord, and saw no sin in himself. Then Joachim knew that the Lord has blessed him; and he went down to his own house. “And after nine months Anna bore a child. And she said to the midwife: “What have I delivered?” and she said: “A girl.” And Anna said: “My soul has been magnified this day!” and she laid her down. And in due time, Anna was purified, and she suckled the child and called her name Mary.
The hallmark of Mary’s life was loving obedience to the will of God. This too must be the hallmark of any who call themselves Christian – being baptized into the very life of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The final stages of preparation for the arrival of our Messiah and Redeemer began the day that Mary, daughter of Joachim and Anne, was born. With delight we rejoice in the Lord who has been good to us – through this humble, wonderful girl from Nazareth!
First Reading: Micah 5:1-4
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule 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 labour has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred 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. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.
Alternative: Rom 8:28-30
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, 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 firstborn within a large family. 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: Matthew 1:1-6, 18-23
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, 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 Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab 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 King David.
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”