Ordinarily, the practice of the Church is to remember the saint on the day of this death instead of on the day of his birth. She makes two exceptions, however, for the Mother of God and for St. John the Baptist, since Mary was immaculate from the first moment of her conception and St. John was freed from original sin before his birth.
The feast of Mary’s nativity had its origin in the East, most likely in Syria or Palestine in the fifth or sixth century. ST. Roman, a deacon at the Blachernae church near Constantinople, wrote several beautiful hymns in honour of the feast. In the eighth century, Andrew of Crete delivered two sermons concerning this feast. The Western Church generally began to keep the feast of the Nativity of Mary only in the eighth century. Even then it was not universally celebrated, though in many places it had made its appearance even earlier. For some reason, the spread of this feast in the West has been retarded and it does not appear in many calendars which do contain the Assumption.
When Glorifying the Nativity of the Mother of God, a pious Christian would like to know where our Lord’s Mother was born. One tradition maintains that she was conceived and born in the same house in which “the Word became Flesh,” that is, in Nazareth. Another tradition regards Sephoris, a little town north of Bethlehem, as the birthplace of Mary. According to legend, this was the town where the parents of our Lady, Joachim and Anna, had lived at one time. Some even hold that her nativity occurred in Bethlehem itself. But most probably she was born in Jerusalem, in a house called by St Sophronius of Jerusalem, “Probatica,” a name derived from it nearness to the pond called Probatica or Bethsaida. St. John Damascene himself asserts that Mary was born in Jerusalem. It is said the Empress Eudoxia built a church over the place of her birth, the church of St. Anne.
The liturgy rejoices in the nativity of Mary by means of hymns and chants of deeply spiritual and poetic character. Sergius of Jerusalem writes: “This is the day of the Lord! Therefore, rejoice, O nations. For behold, the chamber of Light, the scroll of the Word of Life has come forth from the womb. The gate facing the east has been born…” (vespers). Stephen of Jerusalem, in another hymn sung during vespers, writes: “Today Anne, the barren, gives birth to the Virgin of God, King of all and Creator of all…” The great patriarch Germanus, praised the nativity of Mary in these words: “The joy of the whole world has gone forth to us from the righteous ones, Joachim and Anna. She who is indeed the all-extolled Virgin who because of her surpassing purity became a living temple of God and alone is known in truth as the Theotokos; wherefore by her intercessions, O Christ our God, sent forth safety to the world and to our souls, great mercy.” (stichera of vespers) The second kathisma of matins summarizes beautifully the mystery of Mary’s immaculate conception: “In truth, O Theotokos, virginity is as impossible for a mother as birth-giving is for virgins. Yet in you the fulfilment of both has been accomplished, wherefore all we families of the earth ceaselessly bless you.”
The feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God is anticipated by one pre-festive day and is followed by a post-festive period of four days.
Next Feast Days
|September 8||Nativity of the Mother of God|
|September 14||Exaltation of the Holy Cross|
|October 1||Patronage of the Mother of God|