Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God, heralded joy to all the world.
Do you know that September 8th is Mary’s birthday? It is celebrated as the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, exactly nine months after the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8th.
The birth of the Virgin Mary links the Old and New Testaments, ushering in a new era in Salvation History. The anticipation of the Savior is about to end when the infant Mary arrives. She is the Daughter of Zion, representing the people of Israel, and the new Temple which will become the dwelling place of God Incarnate.
Mary’s birthday was first observed in the Eastern Church during the sixth century, and the devotion spread to Rome where it became a solemnity. It included a major octave (eight days of commemoration), a solemn vigil which prescribed a day of fasting, and a procession from the Roman Forum to St. Mary Major. The solemnity was simplified to a feast day in 1955, although it is still celebrated as one of the twelve great liturgies by Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Several dates have been honored as Mary’s birthday, but September 8th was the prominent tradition. One interesting legend in France claims that St. Maurilius celebrated the birth of the Virgin Mary at Angers based on the vision of a local Frenchman. On the night of September 8th, around the year 430, the man heard the angels singing in heaven. When he asked why they were rejoicing, they replied that the Virgin was born on that night
This special day is certainly worthy of a family celebration. My family plans to wear blue, Mary’s traditional color, on September 8th, and we’ll bake Blue Velvet Cupcakes (my version of the southern classic, Red Velvet Cupcakes). We’ll also attend Eucharistic Adoration and Mass.
You can honor the Blessed Mother’s birthday in other ways. Praying the Rosary, her favorite prayer, would please her greatly. You might also purchase a statue of Mary to display in your home, or a medal or scapular to wear as a sign of your devotion.
I found this entry from the Byzantine Daily Worship a fitting prayer for this feast. It could be read aloud before lighting candles on a cake or cupcakes in honor of Mary’s birthday:
Come, all you faithful, let us hasten to the Virgin: for long before her conception in the womb, the one who was to be born of the stem of Jesse was destined to be the Mother of God. The one who is the treasury of virginity, the flowering Rod of Aaron, the object of the prophesies, the child of Joachim and Anne, is born today and the world is renewed in her. Through her birth, she floods the Church with her splendor. O holy Temple, Vessel of the Godhead, Model of virgins and Strength of kings; in you the wondrous union of the two natures of Christ was realized. We worship Him and glorify your most pure birth, and we magnify you. (441-442)