It’s late in the day, but I would be remiss if I didn’t recognized today, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which the Church celebrates, naturally, nine months after December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
An account of the birth of Mary, Mother of God, is given in The Protoevangelium of James, a mid-second century writing attributed to James, “the brother of the Lord” (Galatians1:19), who is identified with James the Less, the Apostle. Also called The Infancy Gospel of James, the small book tells the story of the birth and early life of Mary, her marriage to Joseph, who is portrayed as an older man with sons from a previous marriage, and the birth of Jesus. The Protoevangelium is the first extant Christian text to reference Mary’s perpetual virginity, that is, her remaining a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus.
If you’ve not read the Protoevangelium it’s worth taking the time to do so. It’s not a long work. The account of Mary’s conception and birth are similar in style and substance to that of a number of Old Testament women who were barren but, by the intervention of God, conceived and bore a child. Of course, in the Old Testament, those women all gave birth to sons. Here, however, Anna and Joachim, are blessed with a daughter!
From The Protoevangelium of James:
“4. And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world. And Anna said: As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life. 1 Samuel 1:11 And, behold, two angelscame, saying to her: Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks. For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive. And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people. And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive. And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
“5. And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest’s forehead will make it manifest to me. And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest’s plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins. And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: What have I brought forth? And she said: A girl. And said Anna: My soul has been magnified this day. And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.”
How merciful and gracious is our God, not only to give us a Savior, but to give us a heavenly Mother, conceived and born for His great purpose and delivered by the merits of her own Son’s sacrifice from all stain of Original Sin, that she might be well prepared to deliver from her innocent womb a Savior pure and just.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.