May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be always acceptable to you O Lord, our God and our Creator. Amen.
Today, I want to start by expressing a special gratitude that I feel towards our Blessed Mother. She stands as a special example to me of the life that I should lead as a Christian; a life of total willing submission to the will of God. Something that I pray that I, and all of us, may live up to in some small way.
Today is a very unique day in the Church calendar, not only because it is a day that we celebrate the life and work of the Blessed Mother but also because it is one of only three birthdays celebrated on the Church year. The other two births that we celebrate are those of John the Baptist and our Saviour Jesus Christ. It should be evident immediately as to why we celebrate Christ’s birth, that event that heralded to opening of salvation to mankind. However, why do we celebrate the birth of both the Blessed Mother and John the Baptist?
The traditions of the Church hold that all three of these individuals, The Saviour, The Blessed Mother and John the Baptist were both born without the mark of original sin. Jesus Christ, being God himself in human form could not sin and so was obviously free from the sin of our first parents in Eden goes without question. Which leaves us to ask why are our Blessed Mother and John the Baptist also considered to be have saved from original sin? Consider the mission of these two individuals. Of all of those found within the Bible these two figures stand as central to the saving mission of Christ, John the Baptist as the herald of the coming Saviour and the Blessed Mother as the willing vessel of the God-Man Christ, the very Mother of God. I like to think that God looked upon these two great individuals and the mission that they would have to undertake and knew that he could strengthen them by removing the mark of original sin from their births.
At this point I am sure that some of you are sitting there thinking, “If today is about the Blessed Mothers birth, then why was the Gospel about the birth of Christ?”
I am sure that the answers for this are many and varied; however in my mind I take the view that the Scriptures are silent on the life of Mary before her betrothal to Joseph. For information surrounding the early life of the Blessed Mother we need to look to works outside the scriptures such as the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (translated from the Hebrew by St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420), the Protevangelium of St. James (dated to ca. A.D. 125) or the writings and visions of various mystics throughout the life of the Church. While these works may be of benefit to the faithful they are not works sanctioned by the Church and so are not appropriate for reading here within our sacred rites. For this reason, the Church chooses to offer us a portion of scripture that brings to our minds the significance of the Blessed Virgin in the economy of salvation and just why it is important for us to celebrate and venerate her whenever we can and by doing so, give glory and honour to God in His great works.
I imagine that throughout her entire life the Blessed Mother was being prepared by God to accept the call that he would give to her through the Archangel Gabriel. Can you imagine being a young, engaged woman having an angel of God come to them and announce that they would bear the Son of God? What an awesome and overwhelming experience! I’m not sure how I would react, but I get the feeling I would be brought to my knees and made a quivering mess…is this what happened to Mary though? It certainly wasn’t she boldy accepted the will of the Lord for her life and prepared to receive the Son of God within her sacred womb.
Can you imagine being St Joseph her betrothed? He gets told that his fiancée is pregnant and that the child is God’s! I know that I would have found it hard to believe; I would have doubted and suspected my fiancée of being unfaithful. Is this what Joseph did? Today’s Gospel reminds us that it sure was! The reading indicates that Joseph thought that the Blessed Mother was guilty of a grave crime and was prepared to cancel their engagement by divorce; it was only the intervention of an Angle that changed his mind.
Can you see the difference in St Joseph and the Blessed Mother’s responses to God’s message? Mary’s was a willing and unwavering yes while St Joseph’s was one of doubt and fear. There is something supernatural about Mary’s response. And it is this response that indicates to me the unique place that Mary holds in the economy of salvation, it points us to the truth of her freedom from Original Sin and the extra strength that she had from a life of preparation by and devotion to God. It is for this reason that I look to Mary as my Mother, why I pray for her counsel and her intercession, why I ask for her blessings on my endeavours, and why I strive to live a life lead by the example of her life. I want to be able to stand before the judgement seat and be able to see that I was guided by the most holy mortal person to ever walk upon the earth, that I strove to not only honour them but to emulate their life as best I could.
It is my prayer that we may all look to the Most Holy Blessed Virgin Mary as our guide and example. As Catholics we should be able to boldly proclaim that we hold the ancient faith of the early Church concerning Mary, we should boldly proclaim her as not just a woman but as the very Theotokos, the Mother God!
Let us pray a prayer written by St Anselm in honour of the Nativity of the Blessed Mother:
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.
When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.
Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.
Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.
Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.
O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen