Saturday, September 8, 2012

Celebrating the Birth of Mary

September 8, 2012. The Birth of Mary.

A morning post by Ran Chase got me thinking about the celebration of holy women and men. Several lines of thought appear – why are some universally remembered, what importance I s attached to the dates of the commemorations, and what is being celebrated?

Today, for example, we remember the birth of Mary, Mother of the Lord. The intriguing question for me is why her birth, her birth, when our usual celebrations center upon the earthly death and birth into everlasting life. In the Western Church, we have festivals for the birth of John the Baptist, Mary, and Jesus. John, the herald of the One who is coming as Lamb of God, calls men and women to prepare for a new way of life, a new kingdom. And more than enough speculation informs us of the reasons his feast coincides with the summer solstice as daylight decreases in anticipation of the birth of the Light growing stronger in his mother’s womb. This celebration of the mother’s birth, though, what of it?

Paired with the Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception, it recalls the creation of Eve, the mother of the human race, made sinless and without birth from Adam’s body. The new Eve, destined to be mother of a new humanity through her Son, is necessarily born – a birth to be celebrated in anticipation of the births that would follow from this virgin. In a cosmic chiasm, she is created from the flesh of her parents, descendants of the first human creatures, and with her body she brings forth the new Adam.

The celebration date and the feast itself show how incarnational, how integrally bound to the laws of nature and the path of time is the life of the Church. These aren’t pleasant parties held willy-nilly to honor people and amuse ourselves. They tell us that actual events change the course of our lives, that time matters, and that individuals count.