The Nativity of Our Lady
Pope John Paul II says:
“… even though it is not possible to establish an exactchronological point for identifying the date of Mary’s birth, the Church has constantly been aware that Mary appeared on the horizon of salvation history before Christ. It is a fact that when “the fullness of time” was definitively drawing near – the saving advent of Emmanuel – she who was from eternity destined to be his Mother already existed on earth. The fact that she “preceded” the coming of Christ is reflected every year in the liturgy of Advent. Therefore, if to that ancient historical expectation of the Savior we compare these years which are bringing us closer to the end of the second Millennium after Christ and to the beginning of the third, it becomes fully comprehensible that in this present period we wish to turn in a special way to her, the one who in the “night” of the Advent expectation began to shine like a true “Morning Star” (Stella Matutina). For just as this star, together with the “dawn,” precedes the rising of the sun, so Mary from the time of her Immaculate Conception preceded the coming of the Savior, the rising of the “Sun of Justice” in the history of the human race. Her presence in the midst of Israel – a presence so discreet as to pass almost unnoticed by the eyes of her contemporaries – shone very clearly before the Eternal One, who had associated this hidden “daughter of Sion” (cf. Zeph 3:14; Zeph 2:10) with the plan of salvation embracing the whole history of humanity.”
Redemptoris Mater ( March 25, 1987)
Since Our Lady was given to us by Jesus Himself, and Our Lady intercedes for us most willingly, we should not be afraid to ask of her a special grace. Many mystics who had visions of Our Lady said that on her feast days she visits Purgatory to release a great number of souls whom she takes back with her to Heaven. Let us ask Her for the graces that we need, and especially the grace of an ardent love for Her Son.
Many countries and cultures celebrate Her birthday in special ways. The Roman Ritual has a blessing of summer harvests and fall planting seeds.
In some of Frances’ winegrowing areas, they call Her “Our Lady of the Grape Harvest.” Some of the best grapes are brought to the church, blessed and attached to the hand of the statue. A festive meal is also part of the celebration on this day.
In the Austrian Alps where cattle and sheep are brought up the mountains for summer pastures, this day marks the descent of the herds into winter valleys. There are large caravans decorated with Alpine flowers, and ancient songs, yodelling, and cracking whips are echoed through the mountains. Traditionally, the day’s milk, and leftover food from the feast are given to the poor in honour of Our Lady.
How can we celebrate in Canada?
Firstly, let us contemplate how Our Lady always leads us to Jesus. Just as the mysteries of the Rosary teach us about the life of Jesus, and the mysteries of Redemption, all Her feasts point to salvation history as well.
Secondly, let us sing hymns such as “Immaculate Mary”, “Salve Regina”, and “Hail Holy Queen.” If you already know these, perhaps your family can find a new one, or make up your own songs honouring Her, using the melodies of familiar tunes.
Thirdly, let us learn the prayers to Our Lady. The Rosary is a main tool for the flow of graces which we will learn about next month. Here are some other prayers that are very powerful:
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.
A Children’s Prayer to Our Mother
Mary Dear Mother of Jesus, look down upon me As I say my prayers slowly at my mother’s knee. I love thee, O Lady and please will thou bring All little children To Jesus our King. Amen.
Now for the senses. Catholics have the rich traditions of liturgies and sacraments filled with rites that involve the senses. The scent of incense, the sensation of being blessed with holy oil, or having the waters of Baptism poured on our heads. The sense of taste is often used in celebrations, and why should Our Lady’s Nativity be any different?
Traditionally, white is the colour of purity, and blue, the colour for fidelity. A white cake or cookies can be made and topped with blue icing and decorations. There are many websites that have recipes for white cake, blueberry cheesecake, or even a blueberry waffle cake with whipping cream or vanilla ice cream between the waffles!
If you have a small statue of Mary, you can put Her in the middle of the cake surrounded by ten candles, one for each of the beads of a decade of the rosary.
Perhaps the children can make birthday cards for Her, or spiritual bouquets.
By making a cake as we would for a human that we can see, we show children that Our Lady is also human, and worthy of our honour. In our family, it made Her seem all that much closer. The purpose of these physical activities is to point to the spiritual. We all need to acknowledge that there is a very great need for the spiritual. An article once stated that when the processions and feastdays began to subside, other traditions began to take their place. Instead of crowning Our Lady in May, there came the May Queen, or Orange Blossom Queen in the secular. Instead of processions of the Blessed Sacrament throughout the towns, there began parades with Santa, etc. As human beings, we need the physical manifestations of our beliefs. Thanks be for the wisdom of the Catholic Church in providing so many rich traditions that help us to do so!
If you have any special family traditions and customs in your family or nationality to celebrate Our Lord, Our Lady or the saints, please send them to me! By celebrating the different cultures’ love for the Church, we can help further the new springtime of evangelization that Pope John Paul II proclaimed.
Send them to: email: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: 613-258-7122
May God bless you richly!