September 8 marks the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This day of celebration, which is thought to have first originated in Syria or Palestine, was brought to the Church of Rome sometime in the seventh century. Although it would take several more centuries before all of Western Christendom honored Our Lady’s birth liturgically, during the reign of Pope Innocent IV in 1243, the feast was adorned with an octave and celebrated with great solemnity.
Consider the following reflection on the life of the Blessed Virgin by St. Augustine which constitutes the readings for the Second Nocturn of Matins for this feast.
Dearly beloved brethren, the day for which we have longed, the Feast-day of the Blessed and Worshipful and Ever-Virgin Mary, that day is come. Let our land laugh and sing with merriment, bathed in the glory of this great Virgin's rising. She is the flower of the fields on which the priceless lily of the valleys hath blossomed. This is she whose delivery changed the nature that we draw from our first parents, and cleansed away their offence. At her that dolorous sentence which was pronounced over Eve ended its course to her it was never said: 'In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.' Gen. iii. 16. She brought forth a Child, even the Lord, but she brought Him forth, not in sorrow, but in joy.
"Eve wept, but Mary laughed. Eve's womb was big with tears, but Mary's womb was big with gladness. Eve gave birth to a sinner, but Mary gave birth to the sinless One. The mother of our race brought punishment into the world, but the Mother of our Lord brought salvation into the world. Eve was the foundress of sin, but Mary was the foundress of righteousness. Eve welcomed death, but Mary helped in life. Eve smote, but Mary healed. For Eve's disobedience, Mary offered obedience and for Eve's unbelief, Mary offered faith.
"Let Mary now make a loud noise upon the organ, and between its quick notes let the rattling of the Mother's timbrel be heard. Let the gladsome choirs sing with her, and their sweet hymns mingle with the changing music. Hearken to what a song her timbrel will make accompaniment. She saith: 'My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the lowliness of His hand-maiden, for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed for He That is Mighty hath done to me great things.' The new miracle of Mary's delivery hath effaced the curse of the frail backslider, and the singing of Mary hath silenced the wailing of Eve."
For Greek Catholics, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is considered one of the 12 principal feasts of the liturgical year, though its octave is abbreviated due to the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14. The service of Matins for the Byzantine Rite is mainly comprised of hymns penned by Ss. John of Damascus and Andrew of Crete which recount both the Virgin’s miraculous birth from her barren mother, St. Anna, and how Mary’s Nativity foreshadows the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a small sample:
Anna was barren and unable to give birth, yet she was not childless in God's eyes; for, lo she hath become known by all generations as the mother of the pure Virgin, from whom the Creator of nature hath sprung forth in the guise of a servant.
"Today is the bridge of life born, through which men have attained restoration after their fall into Hades, glorifying Christ, the Bestower of life, with hymns.
"From a barren woman did the Lord, Who poureth forth life upon all, cause the Virgin to come forth, in whom He was pleased to make His abode, preserving her incorrupt even after giving birth.
"The whole world rejoiceth with thee today, O divinely wise Anna; for thou hast budded forth the Mother of its Deliverer, she who from the root of David put forth for us the rod of strength which beareth Christ as a flower."
With the Society of St. Pius X’s Rosary Crusade
well underway, let us make a special effort to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary on the day of her birth, both by attending Mass if possible or offering a spiritual communion, and making a renewed commitment to pray the Rosary. Let us pray that the Holy Mother of God continue to extend her hand of protection to all the faithful during this time of great trial for the Catholic Church.