Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mary's Birthday

Virgin of Notre Dame de Paris
French, 14th Century
Paris, Cathedral de Notre Dame de Paris
With floral decorations in honor of her birthday, taken by me September 8, 2006
(2019 update.  The statue survived the disastrous fire of April 15, 2019 in spite of standing
very close to the center of the building where the vaults collapsed when the burning spire
(fleche) pierced them.)

The host site for this blog collects lots of statistics, for example, how many visitors for each day, week, month; where in the world they are coming from; what sites are referring them to this blog; what search engines they are using; what operating systems their computers have and, among some other things, what questions they are inputting to the search engines they are using.

In recent weeks I have noted that one question keeps recurring.  It is "Mary's birthday is ..... March?"  Well, the question is a good one, but the presumption on which it is based is a bit of a problem because Mary's birthday is not in March at all.

There is probably a conflation going on here in the mind or minds of the questioners.  The two things being conflated are both events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and both are feasts of the Church.  One is in March, but the other one is in September.

The Annunciation, about which I have recently been blogging quite a lot (with a few more to go) is celebrated on March 25th.  No brain surgery needed to see why that date was selected to celebrate the important event, the Incarnation of the Lord through the assent of Mary to the message of the Angel Gabriel.  It was placed on March 25th because it had been decided to celebrate the Birth of the Lord (the Nativity) on December 25th.  By counting back nine months from the birthdate, we arrive at March 25th.

Philippe de Champaigne, Annunciation
French, ca. 1645
London, Wallace Collection

The other date is the birthday of the Virgin Mary.  This was set on September 8th, with the date of her conception set nine months earlier, on December 8th.  This is known as the Immaculate Conception, not because there was no sex involved in it but because, to prepare her spiritually for her future role as the Mother of Jesus (Mother of God), she was granted the grace to be formed without any participation in the root sin of humanity, Original Sin.

Boccacio Boccaccino, Birth of the Virgin
Italian, 1514-1515
Cremona, Cathedral

So, let's get this straight. Mary's birthday is NOT in March.  It is in September.  But both days (in March and in September) celebrate the same event in different ways, which is the Incarnation of the Divine Word as a human being through a remarkable  young woman who was specially prepared by God for her important role in it.  

© M. Duffy, 2015

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