The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

September 8, 2017

The Pastor's Page

Feast Day. September 8, the nativity or birth of Mary, is nine months after December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Parents and Lineage. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the daughter of St. Anne and St. Joachim. Mary belonged to the tribe of Judah and David’s royal bloodline (see Mt 1:16).

Biblical Silence. The story of Mary’s birth is not recorded in the Bible anywhere, not in the Infancy Narratives of Matthew or Luke, nor anywhere else in the gospels or the New Testament. The legend is found in multiple non-canonical, non-scriptural, or apocryphal sources: the Gospel of James, also known as the Protoevangelium of James; the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew; and the writings of St. Jerome.

A Legendary, Miraculous Birth. According to the legend, Joachim and Anne reached old age without a child, a devastating disappointment and embarrassment to each of them. Anne was barren, much like a number of other great heroines in the Bible who had miracle births: Sarah (Gn 18:11), Manoah’s wife (Jgs 13:2), Hannah (1 Sm 1:5), and Elizabeth (Lk 1:7). Both Joachim and Anne were devout Jews who prayed daily. On one occasion Anne was at home deep in prayer lamenting the fact that she was without child. Coincidently, Joachim had gone to the desert to fast and pray for forty days and forty nights, and like his wife, was distraught because they had no children. An angel appeared to Joachim to announce that Anne would conceive. Joachim hastened home to share the good news with Anne, only to find her waiting for him at the city gate, eager to inform him that an angel had appeared to her with the same message. Shortly thereafter Anne conceived in her old age, for nothing is impossible for God (see Lk 1:37), and nine months later gave birth to her daughter Mary, especially chosen by God to be the Mother of the Savior of the world.

Liturgical Reflections. The Mass prayers describe the magnificence of Mary’s birth: the Entrance Antiphon states that from Mary “arose the sun of justice, Christ our God;” the Collect further explains that Mary’s birth is “the dawning of salvation”; and the Prayer after Communion re-echoes that Mary’s birth is “the hope and the daybreak of salvation.” It is from Mary that Jesus took his flesh and human nature (Prayer over the Offerings). The second antiphon from Morning Prayer says poetically: “When the most holy Virgin was born, the whole world was made radiant; blessed is the branch and blessed is the stem which bore such holy fruit.” Mary’s birth was the arrival of the Mother of God.

Site. The birth of Mary is remembered at the Basilica of St. Anne in Jerusalem. It is located inside the Lion’s Gate or St. Stephen’s Gate, a short distance north of the Temple Mount, and next to the Pools of Bethesda (Jn 5:2). The place is traditionally regarded as the place where Sts. Joachim and Anne had their home. Mary’s birth is commemorated on the lower or basement level at her Birth Crypt. St. Anne’s Basilica was built in 1140 AD during the Crusader Period over the site of two earlier churches, a small oratory built in the Third Century, and then a much larger church dedicated to Mary, built in 438 AD, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614.

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About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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