Feast of the Nativity of Mary
Nine months ago, Mary was immaculately conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, by her father St. Joachim. The Feast of that Immaculate Conception, 8 December, is a much greater Feast than today’s (it’s a Holy Day of Obligation, in fact); but we recall Mary’s birthday, too — the birth of the woman destined by God from the beginning of time to be born of the House of David and the Tribe of Judah, the women whose enmity toward Satan was spoken of as far back as Genesis, the woman whom St. John saw crowned with stars and with the moon at her feet, the woman whom God chose to bear His Son and bring life to the world. With today’s Feast, the line between the Old and New Testaments has been crossed; the New Covenant is imminent!
Today’s Feast is one of the only three birthdays honored in the liturgical year (the others being that of St. John the Baptist and that of Jesus Christ Himself, all three born without original sin, though only Mary and Jesus were free from sin at the moments of their conceptions). We know little about Mary’s birth and youth, most of our information coming from the apocryphal Gospel of the Nativity of Mary (translated from the Hebrew by St. Jerome, A.D. 340-420), the Protevangelium of St. James (dated to ca. A.D. 125), and the visions of various mystics through the years.
There are no specific traditions today, aside from those offered on all Marian Feasts, such as a recitation of the Little Crown of the Blessed Virgin Mary or the Litany of Loreto (You can download this Litany, in Microsoft Word .doc format, in English or in Latin). Having a birthday cake for Mary is a lovely idea, though!
As to prayer, this one to Maria Bambina (the Baby Mary) is most apt:
Hail, Infant Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou forever, and blessed are thy holy parents Joachim and Anne, of whom thou wast miraculously born. Mother of God, intercede for us.
We fly to thy patronage, holy and amiable Child Mary, despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us from all dangers, glorious and blessed Virgin.
V. Pray for us, holy Child Mary.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us Pray: O almighty and merciful God, Who through the cooperation of the Holy Ghost, didst prepare the body and soul of the Immaculate Infant Mary that she might be the worthy Mother of Thy Son, and didst preserve her from all stain, grant that we who venerate with all our hearts her most holy childhood, may be freed, through her merits and intercession, from all uncleanness of mind and body, and be able to imitate her perfect humility, obedience and charity. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
There is also this marvelous prayer in honour of Our Lady’s Nativity, written by St. Anselm:
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin; give me strength against thine enemies, and against the enemy of the whole human race. Give me strength humbly to pray to thee. Give me strength to praise thee in prayer with all my powers, through the merits of thy most sacred nativity, which for the entire Christian world was a birth of joy, the hope and solace of its life.
When thou wast born, O most holy Virgin, then was the world made light.
Happy is thy stock, holy thy root, and blessed thy fruit, for thou alone as a virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit, didst merit to conceive thy God, as a virgin to bear Thy God, as a virgin to bring Him forth, and after His birth to remain a virgin.
Have mercy therefore upon me a sinner, and give me aid, O Lady, so that just as thy nativity, glorious from the seed of Abraham, sprung from the tribe of Juda, illustrious from the stock of David, didst announce joy to the entire world, so may it fill me with true joy and cleanse me from every sin.
Pray for me, O Virgin most prudent, that the gladsome joys of thy most helpful nativity may put a cloak over all my sins.
O holy Mother of God, flowering as the lily, pray to thy sweet Son for me, a wretched sinner. Amen.
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