Feast Day: September 08
Mary, the Mother of God, Mother of Jesus, and wife of Joseph, is the greatest of all Christian saints. Important in the cycle of Marian feast days, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary originated in the Eastern Church, but became established in the West under Pope Sergius I (r.687-01), who instituted feasts for Mary’s Annunciation (Mar. 25), the Presentation at the Temple (Nov. 21), and the Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15).
The Virgin Mother “was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men” (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 66). Mary is venerated (to regard with respect, reverence, or heartfelt deference) with special honor, called by Thomas Aquinas, “hyperdulia,” as the highest of God’s creatures. The principal events of her life are celebrated each year as liturgical feasts of the Church.
Born in Jerusalem, Mary was presented in the Temple and took a vow of virginity. The birth of Mary is not recounted in the Bible, and the principal source is the apocryphal 2nd-century “Protoevangelium of James,” which tells the story of her parents, Anne and Joachim. Mary’s life and role in the history of salvation is prefigured in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:15, “Protoevangelium” — the first Gospel) and recorded in the New Testament of her life surrounding the conception, birth, life, and death of Jesus.
The Church has long taught that Mary is truly the Mother of God (Theotokos). Paul observed (Gal. 4:4) that “God sent his Son, born of a woman,” expressing the union of the human and the divine in Christ. As Christ possesses two natures, human and divine, Mary was the Mother of God in his human nature. This special role of Mary in salvation history is clearly depicted in the Gospel in which she is seen constantly at her Son’s side during his soteriological mission.
In the document on the liturgy, the Second Vatican Council states that Mary “is inseparably linked with her Son’s saving work.” The mystery of the divine election of Mary as Mother of God is explicitly related to her humility. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Lk 1:46-48, NAB). That same sense of humility and lowliness is an indispensable condition for receiving the divine gifts.
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
– Memorare Prayer
Bunson, Matthew and Margaret Bunson. “Encyclopedia of Saints-Second Edition.” Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2014.
Heritage, Andrew, ed. “The Book of Saints: A Day-By Illustrated Encyclopedia.” San Francisco: Weldonowen, 2012.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar-Updated and Revised Edition.” New York: Alba House, 2012.