The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This Gospel account speaks of Jesus’ miraculous birth; however our celebration today remembers the miraculous birth of his mother, Mary. There’s no record of this in the Scriptures. The best we can do is found in the Gospel of James, which dates back to about year 145. The Gospel of James is “apocryphal,” i.e., it doesn’t have the authority of the Scriptures but it does give us an early picture of the piety that developed around Jesus’ mother, Mary. According to the Gospel of James, Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim, fervently prayed and prayed for a child, to no avail. But then they received a miraculous promise from God that Anna would conceive a child, and this child would herald God’s plan of salvation for the world. God was especially present in Mary’s life from the beginning. Two second-century teachers, Saint Irenaeus and Saint Justin Martyr, who lived at the same time as the Gospel of Thomas appeared, wrote that if Jesus is the new Adam, then Mary, his mother, is the new Eve.[i] Saint Augustine, writing in the fifth century, said that through Mary’s birth and the birth of her son, Jesus, the nature we inherit from our first parents Adam and Eve is changed from “original sin” to “original blessing.”[ii] Mary, then Jesus, change everything.
The Roman Catholic tradition speaks of Mary’s birth as “the Immaculate Conception.” The Anglican tradition is less formulaic. If Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of God’s salvation for the world, Mary is its dawning.
We believe in the “communion of saints,” that there is a mysterious yet real connection between this life and those who have died ahead of us, this including Saint Mary. As unique as Mary is, you have so much in common with her. Since the dawn of time, there has been no one else like her, and so for you. You are absolutely unique. Down through the ages, there has been no one else who was asked to give birth to and bear what she was called to do. And so for you. Your life is like none other. When she realizes what her life is to be about, what her life will cost and what her life will yield, she is afraid. Undoubtedly you, too, have known fear as your own destiny has dawned on you. Mary is your companion in all this. Jesus is your Savior; Mary is your companion, especially at those moments when you say, like she did: “How can this be?” “How can I face this, do this, bear this, survive this what is coming at me?” You and Mary have somuch in common. Mary is your companion. Build on that relationship.
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you,
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
[i]Saint Irenaeus (130-202), Bishop of what is now southern France. Saint Justin (130-165), a prolific Christian apologist, was a 2ndcentury martyr in Rome.
[ii]Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo in northern Africa.
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