Thursday 8 September 2016

The Birthday of Our Lady

One is my dove, 
my perfect one is but one, 
she is the only one of her mother, 
the chosen of her that bore her. 
The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed:
the queens and concubines, and they praised her.
(Song of Songs 6:8)

Since ancient times Christians have understood the mystical sense of the Song of Songs (also known as the Canticle of Canticles) to refer to the relationship between Jesus and His Bride the Church. Generally what can be said of the Church can also be said of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the first and for a time only Christian Mary literally was the Church of which she is also mother. So, as we celebrate her nativity, what can this verse teach us about our Lady?

Sacred Tradition tells us that Mary was the first child of St Anne but not, perhaps, the only one. She was, however, in a unique sense the Daughter of Zion. The Chosen people of God, as a people, gave birth to only one daughter and that was Mary. Through her the fulfilment of the Covenant relationship between God and Israel would enter the world. She was therefore both the only one and the chosen one of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It could also be said that she was the only pure child of the human race since Mary, uniquely among us all, was through the merits of her Son, conceived fee from the taint of original Sin. This makes her, in Wordsworth's evocative expression, 'Our tainted nature's solitary boast'. (Jesus, of course, was perfect by nature not by grace.) We can also think of Mother Earth as rejoicing in the birth of Mary ' for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:20-21)

The daughters who call her most blessed, as St Elizabeth did, are all the children of God who have received the Spirit with gladness and see in Mary the light before the dawn, the one whose faithfulness and love will bring heaven down to earth. Mary is she in whom the Father delights, to whom the Holy Spirit is espoused and from whom the Son is born. The word 'most' is a superlative which means that no one ever was or ever shall be more blessed than Mary. None more blessed with joy as the mother of Jesus. None more blessed with the Cross as witness on Calvary of the Passion and Death of her beloved Christ.

The Queens who praise her stand for all who are involved in the world, the workers, students, parents, homemakers who find time each day to turn to God with thanks and prayers. For who can praise God without also remembering beloved Mary full of grace who has found favour with God?(Luke 1:30).

The concubines who praise her stand for all those deeply sunk in sin who have been or are being led from vice to virtue through our Lady. As a model and icon she stands without rival in inspiring us to change our ways, to conform ourselves to her and through her to Christ our Lord. As our Advocate she stands before the just judge, her Son, who can refuse her nothing. As mediatrix of all grace she sends to us the Holy Spirit who revives us and leads us via repentance, contrition and conversion to the Father.

The Blessed Virgin Mary is gentle as a dove. She is also like the dove of Genesis 8:11 who brought to Noah the bough of an olive tree with green leaves on it. Its coming was a sign of hope, the bough symbolised the Cross, the leaves the new life in Christ and all of these can be found in our Lady. She is perfect in her response to the grace of God which fills her so completely and so is without sin or stain. And she is but one, the only one, Mother of God, Mother of the Church, Mother of Christians, Queen of Heaven. Our beloved Mary, let us rejoice in her and with her as we celebrate her birthday.

Appare, dulcis filia,
nitesce iam virguncula,
florem latura nobilem,
Christum Deum et hominem.

(Appear, sweet daughter,
Grow verdant, little branch.
You will bear the noble flower:
Christ, God and man.)
From the Morning Prayer of the Nativity of Mary


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The painting is St Anne with the Virgin and Child by Michael Wolgemut 

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