The Catholic Defender: The History of Celebrating the Virgin Mary's Birthday
July 25, 2019
In the old Testament, we read about Sarah, Hannah, Manoah's Wife, and St. Elizabeth (New Testament) who were childless until the Lord gave them the miracles of Isaac, Samuel, Sampson, and St. John the Baptist.
All these situations the Lord had a plan that would affect his people in blessed ways.
In reality, each child is a blessing and an opportunity that God will work miracles in the lives of his people. There is another woman who can be added to this list of fantastic women who were childless for a special reason of God. There will come a woman who would fulfill the prophecy of Genesis 3:15,"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
This next example is unique because the child would be a woman and not a man that God would liberate His people. The event is known as the "Immaculate Conception" which is the miraculous conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is celebrated on December 8. The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the “New Eve”, the woman together with her seed would bruise the serpents head while the Devil strikes at their (His) heal is celebrated on September 8.
The Protoevangelium of James is an apocryphal writing that goes back to 145 A.D. which is important because even though it is not accepted as the inspired Word of God, it does give a glimpse of what the early Church believed about Mother Mary. The account is this:
"4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest's forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest's plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary."
Anna, the Mother of Mary, the Grandmother of Jesus is so much like the women I mentioned earlier. To be barren and childless was seen as a curse, but God sometimes has a plan that displays His almighty power.
The Church calendar places the birth of the Virgin Mary as September 8, which is not specific to the Scripture, but it seems to have been revealed by the celebration of angels in Heaven commemorating the holy birth.
In 430 A.D., a man was given a vision of angels praising and glorifying God for the coming of Mother Mary because what her coming meant to the coming of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
According to the vision, September 8 was Our Lady's birthday. This vision was so important to St. Maurilius (Bishop of Angers France between 423 and 453) that he began the celebration of Our Lady's birthday as a Feast day.
It would take another couple of centuries (7th century) before the Church would make the celebration universal mostly because the Protoevangelium of James was not regarded as biblical.
I place importance here with this apocryphal work because it's writing is about 40 some years before St. Irenaeus of Lyons writing, "Against Heresies" which details much of the Blessed Virgin Mary especially as the "New Eve".
There is a story that concerns St. Maurilius I find very interesting, here it is:
During the consecration of a Mass celebrated by the bishop, a dying child was brought in great haste to the church, to receive Confirmation. The Saint waited for the end of the Holy Sacrifice, but during this time the child died. Maurilius was so grieved by this that he fled without advising anyone and embarked for England, where in great humility he took employment as the gardener of a nobleman. His diocesans at Angers were inconsolable, and sought him out so well that they discovered his retreat. He refused, however, to return as bishop, stating that he could not do so because during his voyage he had lost at sea the keys to the cathedral, and had vowed not to return until he found them. But see, said the messengers, what we have here; during our crossing a fish was cast up by a wave onto the deck of the ship, and in its stomach we found these keys! Maurilius obeyed the Will of Heaven. When he returned he asked to be taken to the tomb of the child, and with tears streaming from his eyes asked God to restore him to life. The resurrected child was given the name of René for this reason, which in French means reborn, and he became the successor to Maurilius as bishop of Angers.
God is so good, He is so detailed, what a story of God's presence among his people! With signs like these, a man hearing angels praising God which is very biblical, Psalms 148:1-2 states, "Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights! Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his host!"
St. Anna and Joachim received the great blessing of bearing a child who would have the greatest impact among women, to be the Mother of Jesus Christ.
Like them, may we accept Mary into our homes, where Mother Mary is, there also is Jesus.
Jesus Birthday is December 25, 2 B.C.
It is noted that according to the belief in the Medjugorje visions, it is believed Mary's birthday is August 5, however, Medjugorje has not been accepted as true and is still under investigation.
Holy Mary, Child most precious, joy of the Holy Trinity.
Purest daughter soon to bless us; Holy Spirit’s bride to be!
Heavenly child and purest temple, from your cradle send your grace.
Make us pure and sweet and simple, as the love shining from your face.
Holy Mary, Child sublime, garden of virtue, full of grace.
Gate of Heaven make us thine, as we reach out for your embrace!
Heavenly child and fairest dove, beautiful lily, oh so sweet.
Fill us with your trusting love, as we lay flowers at your feet.
Holy Mary, Child of life, mirror of love and hope and peace.
In the sorrow of our strife, teach us the way; our faith increase!
Heavenly child and mystical rosebud, Mother of Mercy, soon to weep.
To thee we bring this song of love to console you as you sleep.