The Immaculate Conception with St. Joachim and St. Anne
Today is the day of the birth of the Blessed Virgin, sings the Church: Nativitas est hodie sanctae Mariae Virginis. Let us celebrate this happy day with all possible solemnity: Nativitatem hodiernam solemniter celebromus: let us celebrate it with the greatest joy, cum jucunditate. Your birth, or Virgin Mother of God, filled with joy the universe world: Nativitas tua, Dei genitrix Virgo, world universe gaudium annuntiavit. This day made us heaven a magnificent present, a present of inestimable value, says St. Bernard: Pretiosum hodie munus coelum nobis largitus est. This was the very day when the thick darkness began to dissipate in which for more than five thousand years the world lay buried, striking the first light at the birth of that bright dawn, which had been awaited for so many centuries, of the yearnings and desires of so many patriarchs and prophets. Let us all celebrate the birth of the Mother of God, says St. John Damascene, by which the entire human race was reintegrated, being she who made the sadness that our first mother Eve caused us to rejoice. Dei Genitricis natalem complectamur, per quam mortalium genus redintegratum est; per quam prmogeniae matris Eva moeror in laetitam matatus est. (Serm. Of Christmas, B. V.). Just as aurora is the end of the night, says Abbot Rupert, so this birth was the end of our evils, and the beginning of our happiness and consolation: Sicut aurora finis praeteritae noelis est, sic Nativitas Virginis finis dolorum et consolationum fuit mitium. (Lib. 6 in Cant.). Where there is a purest, holy, and fuller joy than that which causes this happy day to the whole Church by the birth of that which the oracles of the Prophets had announced, as St. Jerome says: Vaticinium Prophetarum (in Michaes, VI ); birth that was like pledge of the promises of God, in phrase of San Juan Damasceno: Pignus promissionis; and as security of the future birth of an entire God: Genitate votum naseituri Dei?
It seems, adds the same Saint, that since the creation of the world the centuries were in competition over which of them should have the glory of honoring themselves with the birth of the Blessed Virgin: Certabant saecula quodnam ortu Virginis gloriaretur. At last came that blessed time, determined from eternity in the archives of divine Providence, that time so long awaited and so longed after so many centuries; the five thousand one hundred and eighty-three years of the creation of the world; the year two thousand nine hundred and forty-one of the universal flood; the year of one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine from the birth of Abraham; the year of one thousand four hundred and ninety-four of the departure of Moses and the people of Israel from the captivity of Egypt; and the year one thousand and sixteen after David was anointed and consecrated by the king: about the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel, and in the Olympics one hundred and ninety; the year seven hundred and thirty-three of the founding of Rome, and twenty-six of the empire of Octavian Augustus; in the sixth age of the world, that blessed Child, predestined by the eternal decrees to be Mother of the Incarnate Word, having been conceived without sin by a singular privilege, was born in Nazareth, in the city of Galilee, thirty years after her immaculate conception leagues from Jerusalem, on September 8th.
Hitherto he had not seen the world more commendable, for the nobility of the blood and circumstances of his parents, and for the sanctity and merit of that tender child born for the comfort of the whole universe, and for the admiration of all the heavenly court. His father San Joaquin was of royal blood, son of Barpanter and descendant of David by Nathan. This branch of the royal family was originally from Judea; but having fallen from his former splendor into much poverty of fortune by the singular disposition of divine Providence, which the Savior's closest relations wished to be of the same condition as himself, he had become as distorted of his own country, and rooted in his house in Nazareth, was reputed by the family of Galilee. His holy mother was the daughter of Mattan, a priest of Bethlehem, of the tribe of Levi, and of the family of Aaron, so that in the person of his daughter Mary the royal blood and the priestly family were happily united. which Aaron was among the Jews. There were no two husbands, say St. John Damascene, more born for each other; the same mood, the same inclinations and the same opinion in everything, thus believing that it was God's work that happy marriage. Being God the only object of their desires, and addressing all their affectionate sighs to the coming of the promised Messiah, Vivian almost always in sweet and quiet retreat, occupying in prayer all the time that they had free. They were, as Saint Bridget says, two shining stars, which, although concealed by the clouds of a dark and dejected life, dazzled their clarity to the angels themselves, and all the sky fell in love with their piety and their purity.
It had been years since St. Joachim and St. Anne had lived with that peace, with that union, and given to those devout exercises that so much edified all, when the Lord desired that the mysterious offspring of the rod of Jesse, spoken of by the prophet Isaiah ; that dawn so longed that it should precede for a brief time the divine Sun, the longed-for Messiah. It is common opinion that San Joaquin and Santa Ana were already declining to old age without having succession, and without hope of having it; so that this sterility, considered then as a curse of God, and reputed by the most ignominious misfortune that could happen to a family, taking away all hope of having any affinity with the promised Messiah, humiliated long ago the two married saints; on the one hand, their advanced age, and on the other their way of living in prefect continence, according to St. Bridget, they were destitute of all hope of succession, they were content to shed their hearts in the presence of God, asking only that which they was of his greater glory. It is generally believed that the Lord revealed to the two holy husbands that they would have a daughter, who was to be blessed among all women, and God would avail himself of it for the salvation of the people of Israel; but whatever they were, they had the Blessed Virgin, who was miraculously born, says St. John Damascene, of a barren mother; and freeing their parents from the ignominy of sterility, made them the two happiest and most respectable people in the world. (Serm. 1 of Nativ.).
Quid autem est, asks this Saint, cur Virgo Mater ex sterili orta sit? But why was it convenient for the Virgin Mother to be born from a barren mother? Because it was, he replied, that something so new and never seen under the sun was born also by an extraordinary way, and that miraculously was born the one that was the greatest miracle. Quoniam scilicet oportebat, ut ad id quod solum novum sub sole erat, ac miraculorum omnium caput, via per miracula sterneretur. He was very much in favor of nature giving way to grace, and Glory to leave all its fruit. Natura gratiae cedit ac tremula stat, progredi non sustinens. Quoniam itaque futurum erat ut Dei Genitrix ac Virgo ex Anna oriretur, natura gratiae foetum anteire minire ausa est, verum tantisper expectavit, dum gratia fructum suum produxisset. Since the Virgin Mother of God was to be born of St. Anne, nature did not dare to concur, let us say so, out of respect for what was to be the work of grace; was stopped in a certain way, as if to cause the grace to produce the fruit that belonged to it.
The joy of that fortunate father and that happy mother is easily understood at the moment when that blessed Daughter was born. Alumbrados with a certain supernatural light, of course they knew that God had raised her only for himself, and that they were nothing more than repositories of that treasure. The miraculous birth of that Child was for them a certain presage of their merit and of their excellence. O happy parents, exclaims St. John Damascene, that you gave birth to a virgin who will be Mother of God without ceasing to be your daughter: Virginem enim Dei Matrem world peperistis! Blessed is the belly, or holy virgin, who carried you, and blessed are the breasts that you suckled! All devotees, exclaims the devout Sergius of Hierapolis (Deipara 1), to come and greet the newly born, because before her birth she was predestined to be the Mother of God, and with her she is reborn and re-born. renews the same world. Come, people; Come, nations, whatever condition you may be; come to celebrate the birth of this Virgin, with whom, as it were, our salvation was born (orat 1 of Nativ.): Hodie mundi salus inchoavit; jubilate Deo omnis earth; cantate, et exultate, et psallite. This is how St. John Damascene exclaims. When was there a fairer reason for rejoicing? On what other day do we have to explain our excitement more, since at the birth of the Blessed Virgin, as Saint Ildefonso says, the birth of Jesus Christ began in a certain way? (Ser. 3, Nativ.). In nativitate Virginis, felix Christi est inchoata Nativitas. So far God had only looked at the earth as a region of weeping, destined for the room of miserable criminals; but from the very moment when Mary was seen in the world, there is already an object in which the same God is pleased, and can no longer look at him with eyes always irritated.
St. Anne holding the Blessed Child Mary
Some days after Saint Anne was born, Saint Nina was taken to the temple, where, prior to the customary prayers, the name of Mary was imposed upon her, assuring St. Ambrose, St. Bernard, and many other Holy Fathers. gave it to the same heaven, the Lord revealing it to St. Anne and St. Joachim, as the most appropriate to explain the greatness, dignity and excellence of that blessed Child: Dignitas Virginis annuntiatur ex nomine, says the Chrysologue. Brainstorm the wits, all the artifices, all the efforts of eloquence to compose a genetliac, or a magnificent and pompous panegyric to celebrate the birth of some prince. In effect, what can be said about a child who has just been born? To exalt his nobility? This is not to praise him, but his grandparents and ascendants. No matter sterile or poorer than his person in those early days. As far as the future is concerned, all that can be assured with the greatest certainty is that it will be subject to a thousand works and miseries; but it is not known whether it will be good or bad, discreet or silly; in a word, so far he has done nothing, and he is ignorant of what he will do. Not so in Mary: although she was born, it is true that she has already done much, and we can not ignore that she has to do even more. Maria enters the world full of merits, and we know she has to fill the world with happiness and happiness.
There is no doubt that the soul of the Virgin was the most beautiful soul that God created before the soul of Jesus Christ was created; it being possible to say that this was the most excellent work that came out of the hands of the Creator: Opus quod solu opifex spuergreditur, says San Pedro Damiano. The beauty of that beautiful soul corresponded to that of the body. It is known that from the very moment when that most pure soul was united to that most beautiful body, it was also sanctified, and the body concurred with its organs to all the functions of the rational life. Mary being conceived without sin at the first instant, received with grace the perfect use of reason, and since then her understanding was illustrated with all the lights of wisdom and enriched with the full understanding of all natural moral truths. But what was the measure of that grace which he received, and what was the first use of that reason so divinely illustrated? It was so abundant that grace, says St. Vincent Ferrer, which exceeded that of all saints and that of all celestial spirits: Virgo sanctificata fuit in xtero super omnes sanctos, et omnes angelos. In that first moment in which all the saints are objects of horror in the eyes of God, Mary was one of admiration to the heavenly intelligences, and of complacency to the affections of the same God.
This was the Blessed Virgin from the first moment of her immaculate conception; and having multiplied at all times that immense flow of graces, lights, wisdom and virtues, let us conceive, if it were possible, what would be the treasure of merits with which it would be enriched on the day of its birth. For what is more worthy of our admiration, of our respects, of our praise, and of the worship of the whole Church than of the birth of this holy Child? And an year must cause us admiration that the angel fifteen years later finds it and greets it as full of grace; nor that the holy Fathers, speaking of the grace with which he was found at the last moment of his life, that is to say, sixty-two years and nine months after his conception and birth, draw on such strong and significant expressions. St. Epiphanius was quite right to say that this grace was immense; St. Augustine who was ineffable, and Dionysius Cartusian who was as infinite: Mariae sanctitas est infinita. St. John Chrysostom calls Mary the treasure of all grace. St. Jerome says that all was poured into it; and San Bernardino de Sena goes forward to assure that he received all that is capable of receiving a quick creature: Tanta gratia Virginis data est, quanta uni, et pura creaturae pari possibile est.
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
And indeed, if the people are accustomed to make so many rejoicings when children are born to their sovereigns and their princes, because also they are born kings and monarchs that govern them and they send them, how much it is that the birth of Maria filled with rejoicing to heaven and earth, as the Church sings, for in her was born the Queen of Angels and of men; our only hope after Jesus Christ, says St. Epiphanius; our guarantor with God, says Augustine; our medianera with the Mediator, says St. Bernard; the remedy of all evil, says St. Bonaventure; our peace, our joy, our good mother, says San Efrén; and, finally, our consolation, our joy and our life, as the whole Church sings? Mary descended from kings and patriarchs; but what magnifies her most in the eyes of God is not the splendor of her dignity, not her greatness, not her power, not the noise of her glorious deeds; her holiness was what made her so commendable in her conception, and alone is she that constitutes all joy and all her glory in her joyous birth. It is born not already surrounded by splendor like the great ones of the world; no longer among pomp, pomp, majesty as the kings of the earth: without that apparatus, without that worldly splendor is its birth, although apparently so dark, with great advantages preferable to the birth of all the great and all monarchs of the world. All of them were conceived in sin; all were born in disgrace to God, children of wrath and objects of hatred: Mary alone is born of divine complacency, beloved daughter of the Most High, full of her abundant blessings, and enriched with all the gifts of her spirit. This is true greatness, and so the King of glory honors whom he wishes to honor. Grow, Holy Child, grow for the greater glory of the same God that I raise you, as for greater bliss of those in whose favor and benefit you have been born. Someday you will give birth to the same God, from whom you now receive Him. Grow, then, to make him his worthy tabernacle. When it is enclosed in your pure belly, it will confer on you the most august character, elevating you to its divine motherhood. Live and grow for such eminent dignity, and for the greater and more glorious destiny. By means of You He wants to come to us to free us from slavery. Live and grow for our salvation, and so that by being born of You our Savior, you become Mother of all the faithful.
We should be astonished at the fact that a party so holy and of such interest that we were not interested in it was not celebrated in the Church from its earliest centuries, if we did not know the reason that those first faithful had, no doubt more devotees of Mary and more zealous of their worship than we, for the sake of believing the Gentiles and the coarse nations, raised for the most part in idolatry, that Christians worshiped as the goddess of the Mother of their God. This was the motive of the true faithful in those nebulous times not to manifest their zeal for the worship of the Blessed Virgin in loud and solemn parties, content to pay their reverent respects with a tender devotion and a reserved worship. But after the Church of the Lord had peace, and the pastors were able to publicly instruct their flock, the public and solemn worship of the Blessed Virgin flourished throughout the Christian world; their feasts were celebrated with magnificence; Greeks and Latins agreed at this point of religion, notwithstanding the unfortunate schism; and the birth of the Blessed Virgin was one of the principal feasts among Christians. Ortum Virginis didici in Ecclesia, says St. Bernard: et ab Ecclesia indubitanter haberi festivum atque sanctum: firmissime cum Ecclesia sentiens, cam accepisse in utero ut sancta prodiret. The Church has taught me to celebrate the Blessed Virgin's Nativity with all devotion and with all possible solemnity. I firmly believe with the whole Church that having been sanctified in the womb of her Mother, is an object worthy of our worship from the first moment of her birth.
Versión en Español: Natividad de la Vírgen María