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The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Celebrating the birthday of Mary is a challenge for all of us, as we know so little of her early years in Nazareth. We can only imagine her as a beautiful little girl, much beloved by her parents and neighbours and growing up as normally as any child in that town. We can picture her as a generous and thoughtful child, eager to help others and drawn to prayer and learning the Torah.
The mystery of Mary’s work among us is a subtle and as real as her work among the people of Nazareth nearly 2000 years ago. Who would have thought then that the teenage daughter in the home of Anne and Joachim would be called upon to cooperate in the event that literally changed the course of history and inevitably the human course of each one of us as well? The heavens must have bowed down in wonder and awe as the angel Gabriel approached the young Mary. Gabriel himself was obviously struck by the holiness of the girl–this young girl who had been prepared from the moment of her conception to receive the life of grace and of love undimmed by even the slightest touch of resistance to God’s action.
The splendour of her radiant goodness must have rivaled the angelic hosts themselves as Gabriel said and the gospel tells us. At the moment of his arrival, he greets Mary: “Rejoice O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” This greeting was before her humble but fearful consent to his request.
The gospel writer could have waited to report the glad exclamation until after Mary had said her “Fiat.” But we would have lost the impact of the greeting. Something had been happening to Mary to prepare her for this moment. God’s action within her had produced a depth of holiness that awed even the Archangel Gabriel himself.
Mary was to be from the first instant of her life completely won over to God. Joseph’s very human response to Mary’s pregnancy illustrates how ordinary her life was perceived during her lifetime before this amazing event.
It is by no sheer accident that the church reminds us, on the feast of the Birthday of Mary, that God had a special place for Mary. Her role puts her into the context of God’s design for her and for us.
Paul reminds us that we are called “according to God’s purpose” since we were predestined to be conformed into the image of God’s Son. Therefore, we, too, are meant to have a special relationship with Mary as Christ had. It is through her that we can become Christ-like, that we can fulfill our destiny to be holy and blameless in God’s sight, that we are to be full of love. We can, if we choose, call upon the Queen of Heaven to help us bring Christ again and again to a world that needs him so desperately.