The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Crown of Twelve Stars

All praise and thanksgiving; be to the ever-blessed Trinity, Who hath shown unto us Mary, ever-Virgin, clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and on her head a mystic crown of twelve stars.

R. For ever and ever. Amen.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Father, Who elected her for his daughter.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Father, Who predestined her to be the Mother of His Son.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Father, Who preserved her from all stain in her conception.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Father, Who on her birthday adorned her with His choicest gifts.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Father, Who gave her Joseph for her pure spouse and companion.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Son, Who chose her for His Mother.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Son, Who became Incarnate in her womb, and abode there nine months.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Son, Who was born of her and was nourished at her breast.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Son, Who in His childhood willed that Mary should teach Him.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise is to God the Son, Who revealed to her the mysteries of the redemption of the world.
R. Amen. Ave Maria and Gloria Patri.

Let us praise and give thanks to God the Holy Ghost who made her His spouse.
R. Amen. Pater noster.

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, Who revealed to her first His name of Holy Ghost.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, through whose operation she became at once Virgin and Mother.
R. Amen. Ave Maria

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, through whom she became the living temple of the Most Holy Trinity.
R. Amen. Ave Maria.

Praise be to God the Holy Ghost, by whom she was exalted in Heaven high above all creatures.
R. Amen. Ave Maria and Gloria Patri.

For the Holy Catholic Church, for the propagation of the faith, for peace among Christian princes, and for the uprooting of heresies, let us say Salve Regina.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, Hail our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us; and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Make me worthy to praise thee, O Holy Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.
V. Blessed be God in his saints.
R. Amen

(100 days Indulgence)

The Angels' Birthday Song to Mary.

"Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, gives joy to the whole world, because from thee shall rise the Sun of Justice, Christ our Lord."--The Church. Cant. iii. 6: "Who is she that goeth up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense? "

Hail to the Flower of grace divine!
Heiress, hail of David's line!
Hail Redemption's heroine!
Hail to the Virgin pre-elect!
Hail to the work without defect
Of the supernal Architect!

Hail to her ordained of old
Deep in enmities untold,
Ere the blue waves of ocean rolled,
Ere the primordial founts had sprung,
Ere in ether the globe was hung,
Ere the morning stars had sung!

Welcome the beatific morn
When the mother of life was born,
Whom all lovely gifts adorn!
What a thrill of ecstatic mirth
Danced along through heaven and earth.
At the tidings of Mary's birth!

How was hell to its centre stirred!
How sang Hades when it heard
Of her coming, so long deferred!
Happy, happy, the angel band
Chosen by Mary's side to stand
As her defense on either hand!

Safe beneath their viewless wings
Mother-elect of the King of kings,
Fear no harm from hurtful things!
What though Eden vanished be,
More than Eden we find in thee!
Thou our joy and jubilee!

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

"What an one, think ye, shall this child be?"--Luke i, 66.

When St. John, the precursor of our Lord, first saw the light of day, and when his father's tongue was loosed, as he wrote the name of the child, people wondered and said: "What an one, think ye, shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him."

This child was to be the forerunner of our Lord, of Him who is to be the Saviour of the world, to prepare for Him a way by which to enter the hearts of the children of men. Had the neighbors, when they first saw the child, but known his high vocation, they would have had every reason to congratulate him, and to be glad over his birth. I shall apply this text: "What an one, think ye, shall this child be?" to the birth of the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of the Incarnate Son of God.

How many and how great reasons should have urged the people, who lived at the time of her birth, to congratulate the child, and to be glad. To them, however, these were not known. But we do know, and we, therefore, celebrate the memory of the happy occurrence of her nativity, as though this were the day on which our Blessed Lady first saw the light of day. It is in this spirit, as you are well aware, that the Church celebrates her feasts, and her prayer for today's festivity confirms what I have just said.

Be it then to her honor and to our consolation that I ask the question: what child is this that is born today? and what shall this child be?

The answer to the two questions shall be the subject of my sermon.

And thou, Mother of God, obtain for us the grace to know thy Dignity and Power, and our hearts will be filled with festive joy! I speak in the holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God! The chief reason why a whole empire often rejoices at the birth of a child, is because this child is heir or heiress to the throne. Then it is, that days of jubilee are proclaimed throughout the land. Observe, then, the character of the child that is born today. This child is the future Queen of heaven and earth, the Ruler of the powers of Nature, the Mistress, not only of the visible world, but of those spacious realms of glory that loom up with dazzling brilliancy beyond the skies. Yea, more, she is Queen of the Angels, in the order of their choirs,--of Angels, of Archangels, of Dominations, Virtues, Powers, Thrones, Principalities, Seraphim, and Cherubim. All the Choirs of Angels are hovering around the cradle of this child, and pay homage to their Queen.

Yet, even now, at the first moment of her life, this child is full of grace, surpassing, by the splendor of her virtues, all the Choirs of Angels who may justly exclaim in their bewilderment of joy: "Who is she, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, the one chosen Mother of the Son of God?"Already in her mother's womb she was endowed with the full use of reason, so that with every breath she could gain merits that surpassed those of the angels and saints, and these merits would go on increasing to the end of her life. What a glorious spectacle for the Angels to behold this child! and her name should be Mary, which signifies--the sea.

It was not without a special intervention of heaven that St. Joachim and St. Anna gave the child of grace this name. For as all the waters of the rivers flow into the sea, and the sea majestically flows over them all, so should every grace which God ever granted to Angels and Saints, and will ever grant them to the end of time, flow into the heart of Mary, and be inundated with the fullness of her grace. Yet, what do I say: this Child is pleasing in the sight of Angels. Rather let us consider, with what complacency the Blessed Trinity looks upon this Child. "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased," thus resounded the voice of the heavenly Father on Mount Tabor. And today the voice of that same Father is heard over the cradle of the Blessed Virgin: "This is My beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." And the voice of the Son re-echoes: "This is My Mother, whom I have chosen from eternity, and in whom I am well pleased." Beneath her heart I shall soon rest as God and man; shall first take substance from her. Her I shall afterwards embrace as My Mother, honor as my Mother, and glorify as My Mother. "This is My beloved spouse whom I have chosen from eternity, and in whom I am well pleased, My only spouse, immaculate." Such are the words spoken by the Holy Ghost. And had a prophet been present at her birth, as at that of St. John, what might his prophecies have been? We know, for even then all that Scripture and tradition said of her dignity power, sanctity, and glory was fulfilled.

This child--such might have been the words of the Prophet--this child when scarcely three years of age shall consecrate herself, body and soul, to God in the temple. This child, as the virgin spouse of St. Joseph, shall receive the Angel's salutation, and become the Mother of the Son of God. Being Mother to the Son of God, she shall nourish and nurse Him, live with Him for thirty years under the same roof, shall daily have His most holy example before her eyes; and, like Him, grow in age and wisdom and grace before God and men. She shall accompany Him on His apostolic journeys, hear His divine word, and witness all the wonders that He will work. She shall hear the cry of the people: "Blessed the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave thee suck." And when the hour comes in which He will end the sacrifice of redemption on the cross, this child shall stand at the foot of the Cross, and there she shall hear the words of her dying Son: Woman, behold thy Son!

She shall remain on earth in the midst of the Apostles as their Queen, and as protectress of the Church, until saints of every rank shall have preceded her to heaven, and be ready to render her entry glorious. This child, when it shall have shone as the Mirror of Justice on earth, shall be taken, body and soul, glorified into Heaven Oh, what a day of triumph this shall be, when Christ shall embrace her as His Mother, lead her to her throne, where she remains seated forever, and enjoys the bliss and glory of her Divine Son. There she will entone that "Magnificat" which once on earth she sang in such rapturous tones of thanksgiving. There she will be our intercessor with Christ, recommending to Him each of her children, and showing herself the Mother of grace and of mercy, the refuge of sinners, the consoler of the afflicted, the restorer of the sick, our only hope after Christ our Lord.

The whole of Christendom, from its first beginning, and down through all succeeding ages, honored our Lady under all these titles. How many are the examples and witnesses that go to establish grounds for which the Church greets her with these titles, and that prove how accurately were fulfilled the words of the Queen of Prophets: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed! "

Let us think especially of the many shrines erected in her honor throughout Christendom, and of the enthusiasm with which Catholics fifteen hundred years ago received the decree of the Council of Ephesus, declaring that Mary is the Mother of God, and is to be honored and praised and venerated as such. Coming to our own days, think of the ever-memorable year 1854, in which Pius IX. published the declaration that Mary was conceived without stain, exempt from the defilement of original sin. Then it was that the "Te Deum" resounded over the length and breadth of the earth. Look at the many shrines in Europe, where faith has fructified for nineteen hundred years. There is scarcely a province in which Catholics do not assemble at some shrine, and where we do not see countless memorials kept to testify that Mary has proven herself to be the refuge of sinners, the restorer of the sick, the help of Christians. But still more impressive and still more consoling it is for us, her children, to glance into the sanctuary of our own hearts, to look back upon our life-long pilgrimage, and to see how often we ourselves have experienced our dear Mother's help and protection.

Let me ask the sinner: "Who has obtained for you the grace of conversion?" Oh, it is Mary! I cried to her for help. To her I owe this grace. And who, O grief-stricken soul! was it that consoled you when your father, mother, husband, or child were snatched away from you by death? You sought relief from Mary. She consoled you. And to whom do you acknowledge your thanks for the recovery from this or that sickness, for the rescue from this or that danger? You took refuge to Mary. She stood by you. Who is it that will be your consolation and hope on your deathbed? It is Mary, the Mother of a happy death.

And may she be such to us in truth. May she, by her assistance, complete, even unto the salvation of our souls, the work of grace begun in us, in order that we, who have presented our hearty congratulations at her cradle, may behold her throne of glory, and that when, through death, we shall be reborn unto life eternal, departing this world under her guidance and protection, we may forever share her happiness in heaven. Amen!


Litany of the Life of the Blessed Virgin

(For private recitation only)

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Virgin, sprung from the race of David, pray for us.*
Holy Virgin, espoused to the just Joseph,*
Holy Virgin, bound by an inviolable vow of chastity,*
Holy Virgin, gloriously saluted by the Angel,*
Holy Virgin, full of grace,*
Holy Virgin, blessed among all women,*
Holy Virgin, conceiving by the operation of the Holy Ghost,*
Holy Virgin, bearing in thy womb the Man-God,*
Holy Virgin, Mother of the Lord,*
Holy Virgin, Mother of the true Solomon,*
Holy Virgin, visiting Thy cousin Elizabeth,*
Holy Virgin, blest land, whence sprung the Saviour,*
Holy Virgin, holy gate, through which the King of heaven alone may pass,*
Holy Virgin, journeying to Bethlehem with thy spouse Joseph,*
Holy Virgin, bringing into the world thy divine Son,*
Holy Virgin, laying the Son of God in a manger,*
Holy Virgin, visited by the shepherds,*
Holy Virgin, saluted by the Magi,*
Holy Virgin, presenting thy Son to be circumcised,*
Holy Virgin, submitting to the law of purification,*
Holy Virgin, offering thy dear Son in the temple,*
Holy Virgin, flying into Egypt to save thy Child,*
Holy Virgin, returning from Egypt into the land of Israel,*
Holy Virgin, leading an obscure life at Nazareth,*
Holy Virgin, keeping the feasts prescribed by the law,*
Holy Virgin, afflicted at the loss of thy Child, when he was twelve years old,*
Holy Virgin, seeking thy Child for three days sorrowing,*
Holy Virgin, honoring with Thy presence the marriage-feast of Cana,*
Holy Virgin, graciously representing to Thy Son the want of wine,*
Holy Virgin, obtaining a miracle by thy intercession,*
Holy Virgin, following thy Son in His ministrations,*
Holy Virgin, sharing the sorrows of thy Son,*
Holy Virgin, standing at the foot of the cross,*
Holy Virgin, confided by thy Son to the beloved disciple,*
Holy Virgin, pierced with a sword of sorrow,*
Holy Virgin, filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost,*
Holy Virgin, called Blessed by all generations,*
Holy Virgin, reigning in heaven,*

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Protect, O Lord, Thy servants by Thy gracious and abundant help, and grant that our confidence in the protection of the blessed Mary ever Virgin may obtain for us security against all enemies and all dangers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen


For the Assistance of the Blessed Virgin

O Rod of Jesse, holy Flower of David, most blessed Virgin Mary: thou hast brought forth for us the long-awaited Emmanuel. Thou art the Holy City, founded by God Himself, O Virgin worthy of all praise, who never hadst, nor ever wilt have, an equal. Truly art thou "blessed among women," who didst bring down from heaven the Fruit of Life. Thou art, O matchless Virgin, she whom God has laden with all the riches of the universe, the true Tree of Life, planted in the very midst of Paradise, from whose branches do not hand the fruit of sin, but the food of Immortality.

Hail, Queen, clothed with the sun, for whose feet the moon is footstool, whose diadem is set with the stars of heaven! Hail, Mother, than all other mothers more fortunate, in that thou becamest for fallen man the Gate of Paradise! Hail, Glory of heaven, Splendor of the Kingdom of God, Ark of the Eternal Alliance, first Fruit of our regeneration, fairest Creature of the Hand of God!

More beautiful than the rose art thou, purer than the lily's purity, more spotless than the fallen snow: thou dost shine with greater glory than the radiant sun. Thou art above all angels and all saints. Thou art the Child of grace and blessing who hast given children of Eve Eternal Life, in giving them thy Son.

O sweet, O loving Mother: to God, thy Son, do thou commend us, for by Him thy every prayer is honorable. Obtain for us that while on earth we praise thee, we may by the innocence of our lives please thee, and thus merit to reach heaven one time, where, for all eternity, in thy glorification, we shall rejoice. Amen.

(Saint Venantius)


Sermon of St. Augustine

Dearly beloved, the day of the blessed and ever venerable Virgin Mary so long desired, is here. Let our land rejoice in the greatest exultation. Let it shine in the light of the birth of such a virgin. For she is the flower of the field, from her bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed. their sin is blotted out. That unhappy curse of Eve in which it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, is, in the case of Mary, ended, for she bore the Lord in joy.

Eve mourned; Mary rejoiced. Eve carried tears in her womb, Mary joy. Eve gave birth to the sinner, Mary to innocence. The mother of the human race brought punishment into the world; the mother of the Lord salvation. Eve was the source of sin, Mary of grace. Eve harmed by bringing death, Mary helped by giving life. The former wounded, the latter healed. Obedience replaced disobedience; fidelity atones for infidelity.

Now Mary may play melodies upon the organ. Now may the active fingers of the young mother strike the timbrels. Now may choirs sing out with joy. Now let the sweetest Songs mingle with the varying harmonies. Hear how she, our timbrel-player, sings: My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Because he has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid, for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because He Who is mighty has done great things for me. The miraculous new birth conquered the prevalent error. The canticle of Mary silenced the wailing of Eve.


Sermon by St. Bernard, Abbot

What is it that shines star-like in the generation of Mary? Clearly she was born of a kingly line; she was of the seed of Abraham, a descendant of the family of David. Should this seem to be too little, add to this fact another. She is known to be God's gift to that particular house for its holiness; that she had been heaven-promised long before her father was born; foreshadowed by mystic figures; foretold by the words of the prophets. She had been symbolized by the priestly rod which blossomed without root, by Gideon's fleece moist in the midst of the dry threshing floor; by the Eastern gate in the vision of Ezechiel, which had never swung open to anyone. Of her, more than of any other, Isaias spoke in prophecy when he foretold the rod which would rise from the root of Jesse, and then more pointedly told of the virgin who would give birth to a Son. Very properly was it written that a great sign would appear in the heavens, a great sign which is known to have been promised previously from heaven.


Meditation by St. Alphonsus de Liguori

Before the birth of Mary the world was lost in the darkness of sin. "Mary was born and the dawn arose," says a holy Father. Of Mary it had already been said: Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising? As the earth rejoices when the dawn appears, because it is the precursor of the sun, so also when Mary was born the whole world rejoiced, because she was the precursor of Jesus Christ, the Sun of Justice, who being made her Son, came to save us by His death; hence the Church sings, "Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, announced joy to the whole world; for from thee arose the Sun of Justice, who has given us life eternal." So that when Mary was born, our remedy, our consolation, and our salvation came into the world; for through Mary we received our Saviour.

This child being, then, destined to become the Mother of the Eternal Word, God enriched her with so great grace, that in the first moment of her Immaculate Conception her sanctity exceeded that of all the saints and angels together, for she received grace of a higher order--one that corresponded to the dignity of Mother of God.

O holy child! O full of grace! I, miserable sinner that I am, salute and adore thee. Thou art the beloved one, the delight of God; pity me, who on account of my sins have been hateful and abominable in His sight Thou, O most pure Virgin, knewest from thy very childhood so well how to gain the heart of God, that He never did and never will refuse thee anything, and grants thee all that thou askest. My hopes are therefore in thee; recommend me to thy Son, and I shall be saved.

When Mary was destined to be the Mother of God, she was also destined to become the mediatress between God and sinners. Hence the angelic St. Thomas says, "that Mary received sufficient grace to save all men," and therefore St. Bernard calls her "a full aqueduct, that of her plenitude we all may partake."

O my Queen, mediatress of sinners, perform thy office; intercede for me. My sins shall not prevent me from trusting in thee, O great Mother of God; no, I trust in thee; and so great is my confidence, that were my salvation in my own hands, I could place it in thine. O Mary, receive me under thy protection; for that is all my desire.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
from the Liturgical Year, 1903

Let us celebrate the Nativity of the Virgin, Mary; let us adore her Son, Christ our Lord (Invitatory of the Feast). Such is the invitation addressed to us today by the Church. Let us hearken to her call; let us enter into her overflowing joy. The Bridegroom is at hand, for His throne is now set up on earth; yet a little while, and He will appear in the diadem of our human nature, wherewith His Mother is to crown Him on the day of the joy of His heart, and of ours. Today, as on the glorious Assumption, the sacred Canticle is heard (Lessons of the 1st Nocturn); but this time it belongs more to earth than to heaven.

Truly a better Paradise than the first is given us at this hour. Eden, fear no more that man will endeavour to enter thee; thy Cherubim may leave the gates and return to heaven. What are thy beautiful fruits to us, since we cannot touch them without dying? Death is now for those who will not eat of the fruit so soon to appear amid the flowers of the virgin earth to which our God has led us.

Hail, new world, far surpassing in magnificence the first creation! Hail blessed haven, where we find a calm after so many storms! Aurora dawns; the rainbow glitters in the heavens; the dove comes forth; the ark rests upon the earth, offering new destinies to the world. The haven, the aurora, the rainbow, the dove, the ark of salvation, the Paradise of the heavenly Adam, the creation whereof the former was but a shadow: all this art thou, sweet infant, in whom already dwell all grace, all truth, all life.

Thou art the little cloud, which the father of prophets in the suppliant anguish of his soul awaited; and thou bringest refreshment to the parched earth. Under the weakness of thy fragile form, appears the Mother of fair love and of holy hope. Thou art that other light cloud of exquisite fragrance, which our desert sends up to heaven. In the incomparable humility of thy soul, which knows not itself, the Angels, standing like armed warriors around thy cradle, recognize their Queen. O Tower of the true David; citadel withstanding the first shock of Satan's attack, and breaking all his power; true Sion, founded on the holy mountains, the highest summits of virtue; temple and palace, feebly foreshadowed by those of Solomon; house built by Eternal Wisdom for herself: the faultless lines of thy fair architecture were planned from all eternity. Together with Emmanuel, who predestined thee for His home of delights, thou art thyself, O blessed child, the crowning point of creation, the divine ideal fully realized on earth. Let us, then, understand the Church, when, even on this day, she proclaims thy divine maternity, and unites in her chants of praise the birth of Emmanuel and thine own. He who, being Son of God by essence, willed to be also Son of man, had, before all other designs, decreed that he would have a Mother. Such, consequently, was the primordial, absolute character of that title of mother, that, in the eternal decree, it was one with the very being of the chosen creature, the motive and cause of her existence, as well as the source of all her perfections natural and supernatural. We too, then, must recognize thee as Mother, even from thy very cradle, and must celebrate thy birthday by adoring thy Son our Lord.

Inasmuch as it embraces all the brethren of the Man-God, thy blessed maternity sheds its rays upon all time, both before and after this happy day. God is our king before ages: He hath wrought salvation in the midst of the earth (Psalm, lxxiii. 12). "The midst of the earth," says the Abbot of Clairvaux, "admirably represents Mary. Mary is the centre of the universe, the ark of God, the cause of creation, the business of ages. Towards her turn the inhabitants of heaven and the dwellers in the place of expiation, the men that have gone before us, and we that are now living, those that are to follow us, our children's children and their descendants. Those in heaven look to her to have their ranks filled up; those in purgatory look for their deliverance; the men of the first ages, that they may be found faithful prophets; those that come after, that they may obtain eternal happiness. Mother of God, Queen of heaven, Sovereign of the world, all generations shall call thee blessed, for thou hast brought forth life and glory for all. In thee the Angels ever find their joy, the just find grace, sinners pardon; in thee, and by thee, and from thee, the merciful hand of the Almighty has reformed the first creation (Bern. in festo Pentecost. Sermo ii. 4)."

Andrew of Crete calls this day a solemnity of entrance, a feast of beginning, whose end is the union of the Word with our flesh; a virginal feast, full of joy and confidence for all (Oratio i, in Nativit. Deiparae, 1). "All ye nations, come hither," cries St. John Damascene; "come every race and every tongue, every age and every dignity, let us joyfully celebrate the birthday of the world's gladness (In Natal. B.M. Homilia 1)." "It is the beginning of salvation, the origin of every feast," says St. Peter Damian; " for behold! the Mother of the Bride-groom is born. With good reason does the whole world rejoice to-day; and the Church, beside herself, bids her choirs sing wedding songs (Sermo xlv, in Nativit. B.M.V)."

Not only do the Doctors of East and West use similar language in praise of Mary's birth, but moreover the Latin and Greek Churches sing, each in its own tongue, the same beautiful formula, to close the office of the Feast: " Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God, brought joy to the whole world: for out of thee arose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God: Who, taking off the curse, hath bestowed blessing; and, defeating death, hath given us life everlasting (Trope of the dismissal in utroque Vespertino; Magnificat Ant. of 2nd Vespers)."

This union of Rome and Byzantium in the celebration of today's festival, dates back as far as the seventh century at least (Liber Pontific. in Sergio I); beyond that we cannot speak with anything like certitude, nor is it known when the feast was first instituted. It is supposed to have originated at Angers, towards the year 430, by an apparition of our Lady to the holy bishop Maurillus in the fields of Marillais; and hence the name of Notre Dame Angevine often given to the feast. In the eleventh century Chartres, the city of Mary, claims for its own Fulbert, together with Robert the Pious, a principal share in the spreading of the glorious solemnity throughout France. It is well known how intimate the bishop was with the king; and how the latter himself set to music the three admirable Responsories composed by Fulbert, wherein he celebrates the rising of the mysterious star that was to give birth to the Sun; the branch springing from the rod of Jesse, and producing the divine Flower whereon the Holy Spirit was to rest; and the merciful power which caused Mary to blossom in Judaea like the rose on the thorn.

In the year 1245, in the third Session of the first Council of Lyons, (the same session which deposed Frederick II. from the empire), Innocent IV. established for the whole Church, not the feast, which was already kept everywhere, but the Octave of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mansi. xxiii, 612). It was the accomplishment of a vow made by him and the other Cardinals during the Church's widowhood, which, through the intrigues of the crafty emperor, lasted nineteen months after the death of Celestine IV., and which was brought to a close by the election of Sinibaldo Fieschi under the name of Innocent.

In 1377, the great Pope Gregory XI., who broke the chains of captivity in Avignon, wished to add a Vigil to the solemnity of our Lady's birthday. But, whether he merely expressed a desire to this effect, as did his successor Urban VI. with regard to a fast on the eve of the Visitation, or whether for some other reason, the intentions of the holy Pope were carried out for only a very short time during the years of trouble that fallowed his death. Together with the Church, let us ask, as the fruit of this sweet feast, for that peace which seems to flee ever farther and farther from our unhappy times. Our Lady was born during the second of the three periods of universal peace wherewith the reign of Augustus was blest, the last of which ushered in the Prince of peace Himself.

The temple of Janus is closed; in the eternal City a mysterious fountain of oil has sprung up from the spot where the first sanctuary of the Mother of God is one day to be built; signs and portents are multiplied; the whole world is in expectation; the poet has sung: "Behold the last age, foretold by the Sybil, is at hand; behold the great series of new worlds is beginning; behold the Virgin (Virg. Eclog. iv. Pollio)!"

In Judaea, the sceptre has been taken away from Juda; but the usurper of his power, Herod the Idumaean, is hastening to complete the splendid restoration, which will enable the second Temple worthily to receive within its walls the Ark of the New Covenant.

It is the sabbatical month, the first of the civil year, the seventh of the sacred cycle; the month of Tisri which begins the repose of each seventh year, and in which is announced the holy year of Jubilee; the most joyous of months, with its solemn Neomenia celebrated with trumpets and singing, its feast of Tabernacles, and the commemoration of the completion of Solomon's Temple. On earth, two obscure descendants of David, Joachim and Anne, are thanking God for having blessed their long barren union.


At length, O Mary, our earth possesses thee! Thy birth reveals to it the secret of its destiny, the Secret of that love which called it from nothingness, that it might become the palace of the God who dwelt above the heavens. But what a mystery, that poor, weak humanity, inferior to the Angels by nature, should be chosen to give to the Angels their King and their Queen! Their King they will soon adore, a new-born Babe in thine arms; their Queen they reverence today, admiring thee in thy cradle as only Angels can admire. In the beginning these morning stars, these noble spirits, contemplated the manifestations of Almighty Power, and praised the Most High; yet never did their eager gaze discover such a marvel as that which delights their eyes at this hour: God, more purely imaged under a corporeal veil, under the fragile form of an infant one day old, than in all the strength and all the beauty of their nine angelic choirs; God, so captivated by such weakness united, by His grace, to such love, that He made it the culminating point of His work by determining to manifest his Son therein.

Queen of Angels, thou art our Queen also; accept us as thy liegemen. On this day, when the first movement of thy holy soul was towards God, and the first smile of thy lovely eyes was for thy happy parents, may holy Anne allow us to kneel and kiss thy little hand, already filled with the divine bounties of which thou art the predestined dispenser. And now, grow up, sweet little one! Let thy feet be strengthened to crush the serpent, and thy arms to carry the treasure of the world! Angels and men, the whole of nature, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all are awaiting the solemn moment, when Gabriel may fly down from heaven, to hail thee full of grace, and bring thee the message of Eternal Love.