It is a rather obscure feast day for Episcopalians, but it is on our calendar: The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a fixed day, always occurring on September 8, which is exactly nine months after a feast day occurring on December 8 that is not on our calendar: The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. None of the information we have for either of these feasts comes to us from Holy Scripture, but rather from tradition and other non-biblical text, such as the Protoevangelium of James, also known as the Gospel of James, which is one of the infancy Gospels of Jesus, covering the time of Mary’s conception through Jesus’ birth.
The narrative tells about Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, who like Abraham and Sarah could not conceive a child, but instead of giving up, they prayed all the more fervently. Because of their faithfulness, an angel of the Lord appeared to Anne and told her, “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.”
Hearing the news, they created a sanctuary in their home for the child so that she might remain pure. Following Mary’s birth, she was given to God. James tells us, “And Joachim brought the child to the priests and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God of our fathers, bless this child, and give her an everlasting name to be named in all generations’ . . . And he brought her to the chief priests, and they blessed her, saying: ‘O God most high, look upon this child, and bless her with the utmost blessing, which shall be for ever.’”
Reflecting on these great events, St. Augustine, writing in the fifth century said, “[Mary] is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” Through her, the Messiah was given, and through him, we receive new birth. If nothing else is as it truly happened, that much is. Through Mary’s fiat, her “Yes” to God, our Salvation entered the world.
Did any or all of what James tells us occur? I don’t know, but… I feel that there is some truth behind it, because there had to of been something special about Mary for God to have chosen her, out of all the women to ever be born, to give birth to his one and only Son.
So today is a birthday celebration. The birth of our Savior’s mother, which reminds us of Jesus’ birth, but also ours. They were both born for a reason and so were we… so were you. It is also a reminder and a demonstration of God’s faithfulness to those whom He calls and to those who turn their lives over to God’s will. Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” and Jesus declared, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” Both gave themselves fully to God. They did not hold back. Our calling as God’s children is to do the same.
Let us pray: O Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church, with joy and wonder we seek to make our own your Magnificat, joining you in your hymn of thankfulness and love. Guide and sustain us so that we might always live as true sons and daughters of the Church of your son. Enable us to do our part in helping to establish on earth the civilization of truth and love, as God wills it, for his glory. Amen.