Today, September 8, is the Feast of the Birth of Mary, the Mother of God, or as the Greeks call her, the Theotokos or God-bearer. St. Mary’s birthday doesn’t get celebrated this year because Sundays always take precedence over the feasts of saints. The four canonical gospels tell us nothing about Mary’s birth, but the apocryphal sources (early church collections not accepted into the official Bible but widely circulated as being true) tell us the names of her parents, Joachim and Anne, and their long desired conception of a child. In thanks to God, they gave their young daughter to the service of the Temple in Jerusalem. Like several other feasts, e.g. the Transfiguration, the Assumption, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, etc. the date for this celebration is tied to the date for the dedication of the primary church connected to the mystery being celebrated – in this instance, the Jerusalem Basilica of St. Anne where, so the story goes, it is built on the site where Mary’s parents lived.
Those of a more literal mindset might dismiss the feast because of a lack of historical evidence but, as you’ve heard before, every good story is true, and some actually happened. What’s true is that Mary’s YES to the archangel Gabriel came from a child of devoted and God-fearing parents; and even if Mary didn’t spend her childhood in the Temple, she had a sense of God’s authentic call to her and she followed through on that YES to the end.
-Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem.