Our Lady’s Birthday: the holy and the homely

The Church celebrates just three nativities: that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. All three births are interconnected; each one has a special role in the history of salvation. The birth of Christ takes centre stage while those of his mother and cousin appear from the wings in a supporting role. The focus is always on Christ, as the liturgies for the respective feastdays make clear.

St Bernard has a lovely phrase to describe Mary and her role in salvation: he calls her the aqueduct that brings us the Water of Life. The humility and glory of God’s mother are both revealed in that phrase, and the astonishing trust God places in us as human beings . . .

In England this feast day often sees the first autumn crocus, once popularly known as ‘naked lady’ in honour of Our Lady. If you find one in your garden, why not say a prayer? Just as Mary unites in herself the holy and the homely, so that delicate purple flower reminds us of the presence of God here and now in the everyday circumstances of our lives.

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6 thoughts on “Our Lady’s Birthday: the holy and the homely”

  1. Thank you. Anglicans don’t celebrate in the same way, but I suspect that secretly many would like too.

    We mark the feast of the BVM in our Calendar and probably will be next Tuesday in our Parish.

  2. Thank you! I must plant some autumn crocuses ready for next year – I didn’t know of that connection (just as I learned about St Lawrence and tomatoes from you, Sister!)

    Some Anglicans do celebrate this feast quite lavishly – and funnily enough Our Lady’s birthday always brings gratitude and happy memories of my C of E days. My last parish was St Mary’s and this was our patronal festival – everything seemed to come back to life after the summer, the choir was back in force and liturgy became more multi-layered and splendid. They always sang Britten’s Hymn to the Virgin, with “echoes” from the gallery. And the year I was making the Spiritual Exercises in daily life, this was just the moment when I entered the “Second Week” – gospel contemplations on the Incarnation. Sorry to go on so long, but you’ve sparked seem precious memories for me!

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