Posted by: Fr Chris | September 7, 2018

Birth of Our Lady, the Holy Mother of God

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Like other feasts of Our Lady, the celebration of her nativity comes from ancient Syria and Palestine. St John Chrysostom mentions the feast being observed in the late 300s, so it is one of the older Marian feast days. As to why it is on September 8, it was on this day that the basilica of the Virgin Mary was dedicated in Jerusalem under the leadership of Saint Helen.

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St Dmitri of Rostov, with the Mother of God 

St Dmitri of Rostov writes that before a king settles in a city, he builds a palace worthy of his residing in it. God set aside not the glories of Herod’s Second Temple, but the womb of a virgin woman. The story of her birth is told in the legends of Saints Joachim and Ann found in the Protoevangelium of James,  a book written about 145 AD that claimed to fill in the gaps of the New Testament dealing with the lives of Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. The icon of her birth tells a powerful story. Always the icons show a birth at home, with Ann reposing on the bed, the midwives washing the baby girl, and then a side panel where Joachim receives Mary in his arms. They know that this daughter will be the mother of the Messiah, one of the highest graces a woman can have in Judaism.  She will be raised in a loving home, in a setting that you and I would recognize, with happy parents rejoicing in their child’s growth.

In a time when purity is often mocked, when women have been targeted both sexually and with violence, when people very much want to go their own way and do whatever feels good, when the very foundation of family life is under daily assault, Our Lady stands as a reminder of the power of purity, of chastity, of obedience, of radical love, of radical self-giving in the Name of God out of love for God. God chooses a family in which the Mother of the Son is to be raised,  just as that same Son will be raised in a family by two loving parents.

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St Dmitri goes on:       The palaces of earthly kings are guarded by armed guards, who do not allow everyone desirous to enter therein to do so, but rather stop and carefully question everyone as to why they have come. But as for the living palace of Christ, although she is surrounded by Cherubim and Seraphim, by the innumerable choirs of Angels, and by all the Saints, at the doors of her compassionate mercy no one hinders anyone who desirous of entering, neither do the guards expel anyone, nor do soldiers drive anyone away after having questioned him as to why he has come, but having prayerfully entered, he receives a gift which profits him according to his petition.

This matches with our church’s title – Perpetual Help. Our Lady spends heaven helping those who ask her to intercede with God. In the revelation of our patronal icon, Mary said, “I am your Mother of Perpetual Help.” In celebrating the day of her birth, let us rejoice that God loves us, and ask her to strengthen our Christian faith, our commitment to Christ and His Church.

So to conclude with St Dmitri: Thus, let us hasten to the compassionate bosom of her who was born of a barren womb, hailing her thus, “Rejoice, O immaculate palace of the King of All! Rejoice, dwelling place of God and of the Word! To Him, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to you, O Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Son, and Bride of the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory from us mortals unto the ages of ages, Amen.

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SS Joachim and Anne with the Virgin as a child 

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