The Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been commemorated by the Church since at least the 8th century. Interestingly, out of all the saints, the Church’s calendar marks the birthdays of only two: Saint John the Baptist on June 24 and Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Saint John the Baptist holds a unique position as he is believed to be sanctified even before his birth. This special recognition stems from biblical accounts in the Gospel of Luke. Notably, Luke 1:41 mentions how Elizabeth, while pregnant with John, felt him “leap in her womb” when Mary, soon after receiving the news of her own miraculous conception, visited her.
Mary’s birth is also surrounded by divine intervention. She was conceived immaculately, free from original sin, due to the unique role she was chosen for: to be the mother of Jesus Christ. While this belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception was widespread for many centuries, it was only in 1854 that Pope Pius IX officially declared it as a dogma of the Church.
However, the Bible doesn’t provide details about Mary’s birth or her parents. We learn about Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, from an apocryphal text known as the “Gospel of James.” This non-canonical book, dated to the 2nd century AD, suggests that Joachim and Anna were past the typical age of childbearing. Despite this, they continued to pray and fast, hoping God would bless them with a child.
There are varied traditions regarding the exact location of Mary’s birth. One popular belief is that Mary was born in the same house in Nazareth where the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel’s announcement of Jesus’ birth, occurred. Another tradition proposes that the actual site of the Annunciation is beneath the Crusader church of Saint Anna in Jerusalem, in a location previously recognized as the “Gate of Mary” since the 3rd century.
When Christians celebrate the nativity of Mary, they not only honor her but also look forward to the birth of her divine Son, Jesus Christ. This feast serves as a beautiful reminder of the close link between Mary and the story of salvation.
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