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Friday, September 8, 2017

Fr. John Eudes Bamberger, OCSO

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Michah 5:1-4; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 2:1-36, 18-23

The Nativity of the Bl. Virgin Mary that we commemorate today has broad implications for the Church.  In her birth there was the preparation for a fresh beginning of mankind ‘s spiritual existence. The early Church began to realize her essential role in God’s plan with increasing reflection following shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Mary’s birth was the early beginning of salvation. She was from the beginning of her existence destined tor an essential role in the coming of the Lord as Savior of the world. While this is evident already in the Gospel accounts, yet no details of her earlier life are mentioned by the Evangeli9sts. Rather they were concerned to make the Person of Jesus dominant in their accounts.

In a short time after Pentecost and the death of the Last apostle, Saint John, interest in his human origins began to grow. Fervent early Christians gave increasing consideration to Mary’s origins, including her parents and the circumstances of her family life. While these accounts were widely read and preserved to the present day, yet they never found official approval by Church authorities, and so are known as apocryphal writings. Already in the early one hundreds Saint Justin pa9id high honor to Mary the Mother of God. Saint Irenaeus who lived at the same period likewise showed special honor to her. Appreciation of her role in God’s plan of salvation can be traced through the centuries down to modern time. Pope Pius XII solemnly declared her Immaculate Conception an article of Catholic faith. In recent times there has been fervent  expressions of honor for Mary the most notable being at Fatima. Not surprisingly there came to be a fervent interest in Mary’s birth and her parents that led to the Church’s establishing today’s Feast that honors her nativity.

We heard in the first reading the prophecy of Micah foretelling the birth of a ruler of Israel specially sent by God. This prediction of Micah was made at the same period when Isaiah was proclaiming the future birth of a divinely gifted Savior. Remarkably, he predicts that this future shepherd of God’s people will remain and “his greatness shall reach the ends of the earth.”

Fittingly Saint Paul assures us that all things work for good for those who love God.” He is at pains to assure  us that  those who love God  are called are “predestined to be conformed to the image of his son.” These words are directed to each of us here today. We are urged to take the Son of God as our model in life, knowing that to follow him eventually entails accepting death with trust in his strengthening faith.

Saint Matthew introduces his account of Jesus’ conception by Mary with a lengthy listing of the human ancestors of Christ. He traces the ancestors of the Lord through Joseph’s line since it was the Jewish custom to consider the father as the determining parent in this matter. Though Joseph was not the natural father of Mary’s child, yet he was the legal father and head of the household. Matthew presents Joseph’s crisis when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy as being resolved by a dream. He so trusted this dream as divinely inspired that he never again showed any doubt concerning Mary and the divine infant she bore.

If this account is chosen as appropriate for this feast in honor of Mary’s Nativity it is because her motherhood of the Lord Jesus was to become the defining significance of her life. She owes her singular honor and holiness to the child she was to bring into the world. In honoring the Nativity of Mary we give praise and glory to the God who so cared for her as to preserve her free all sin even from her conception and birth.