BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr).


*Mic 5: 1- 4, Matt 1: 1 – 23.

The Church traditionally regards the day of a saint’s death as his /her birthday in heaven. But there are 3 Saints she insists on celebrating their natural birthdays because of their theological significance to the mystery of incarnation. They are; Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. On this feast day of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, what can I say about the readings except the celebration of destiny. Destiny is God’s intervention in human history. And it is not easy to twart destiny or under play it. Today’s 1st reading, talking about the destiny of the people of God says ‘The Lord is going to abandon them until the time when she who is to give birth gives birth’. The gospel chronicles the genealogical fulfilment of that destiny with emphasis on the mother of Jesus: ‘When his mother Mary had been betrothed and was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. You shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins ‘. It happened at the appointed time, Gal 4: 4 . The scriptures celebrate that event in various statements such as: ‘Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rises, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in battle array’, Song 6: 10. She is crowned as the Queen of heaven: ‘The woman clothed with the sun and standing on the moon and on her head a crown of 12 stars. Pregnant and in labour of childbirth ‘, Rev 12: 1. These allusions have led to what we call ‘hyperdulia’ – the honour we give to Mary as the mother of our Lord, Lk 1: 42, 48 higher than that given to all the Saints.

The story of Jesus has never been told without a footnote to his mother. In Micah 5, the prophesy reads: ‘He shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour pains has brought forth…And he shall stand & feed his flock’. Even Matthew’s gospel, with its’ Jewish bent did not down play the role of Mary. It says: ‘When his mother Mary had been bethrothed & was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit…She will bear a son & you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins’. *Mary is not the one to save but must be honoured for her role.* Primitive society has not been kind to women & their existential role on earth. But the bible was not silent about their vital roles in the history of salvation. Christian religion should not join this band wagon. Let’s stop all the arguments about the quantity of honour given to Mary or not. *No Catholic who knows his/her faith gives the same level of honour to both Jesus & Mary. One is Latria (worship); the other is hyperdulia (serious honour). She is most blessed among women – most honoured, not worshipped nor adored. All generations of Christians must call her blessed!* This is why on this feast of the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary we say: *’Glory to Jesus; honour to Mary!’*.


The Church celebrates *more than 12 feast days of Mary within one year*: *1. Immaculate conception,* 8th December, *2. Annunciation,* March 25th, *3. Our Lady Mother of Africa,* 30th April, *4.Our Lady of Fatima,* 13th May, *5. Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,* 31st May, *6. Immaculate heart of Mary,* 4th June, *7. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,* 15th August, *8. Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary,* 22nd August, *9. Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary,* 8th September, *10. Our Lady of Sorrows,* 15th September,* *11. Our Lady Queen and Patroness of Nigeria,* 1st October, *12. Our Lady of the Rosary,* 7th October and *13. Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,* 21st November. In all these, *we are honouring Mary (hyperdulia), never worshipping (latria).* No Catholic who knows his /her faith gives the same level of honour to both Jesus and Mary. We must be careful even in the movement of Marian statues, not to do exactly what we do at Corpus Christi.

Many will ask about today’s celebration: Is it in the Bible? It is not. There is no record of the birthplace of Mary. However, tradition positions it in Jerusalem. The origin of the feast is in the Orient Church. It was celebrated 1st in Jerusalem in the 5th century and introduced in Rome in the 7th century. This feast helped in fixing the date of the Immaculate conception at 8th December (exactly 9 months after). It is based on the purpose of according Mary the dignity as the mother of God (Jesus). St Alphonsus Liguori said ‘her soul was the most beautiful ever created by God.. for she was given a higher order of grace, which corresponded to her dignity of Mother of God’. St Peter Damian, speaking on today’s feast has this to say: *’As Solomon and the people celebrated the dedication of the temple, so should we celebrate the birth of Mary.* Her womb was the most holy temple. There, God received His human nature and entered visibly into the world of men’. Other sources of our information about the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Ss Joachim and Ann) and the circumstances surrounding her birth and death are found in the Protevangelium of St James – one of the Apocryphal books of the Bible. Let me rest my case as I join my voice with all Marian confraternities today in singing: *HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MARY, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!*


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