OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Why does the Church celebrate this festival?
BECAUSE the day of the Blessed Virgin's birth is one of universal joy to the whole world.
Why does Mary's birth cause such great joy?
To this the Church answers beautifully in the antiphon of the Magnificat: "O Virgin, Mother of God, Thy birth has announced joy to the whole world, for from Thee has proceeded the Sun of Justice, Christ our Lord, who, by taking away the curse, has shed benediction and who, by confounding death, has given us everlasting life." This curse, caused by the sin of our first parents in paradise, burdened the whole earth and especially mankind, for "sin having come into the world by one man, it passed upon all, since all have sinned in this one."
It was in consequence of original sin that the human race was covered with such darkness as to ignore its Creator, whilst on the other hand it prostrated itself before creatures and adored idols of its own construction.
Finally, the hour of redemption had come. The infant was born, who was predestined by God to become the mother of the promised Saviour, and who was consequently to crush the head of the serpent. This festival ought then to spread joy through the world, since, after such ardent desires, salvation is at last about to appear! For Jesus, the Saviour, our Lord and God, the Light of the world, the Sun of Justice, is to come forth from Mary; that darkness which had overshadowed all nations, is about to disappear, the knowledge of God shall abound, the bonds of sin, in which mankind lay fettered, shall be loosed, the curse so long resting upon creation shall be taken away, in a word, the fulness of benediction shall reign upon earth. To-day even death is put to shame, for she is born, from whom shall come forth the Conqueror of death, who depriving it of its sting, shall guide us unto perpetual life. Such are the glorious hopes that Mary's birth awakens in us, promising at the same time the speedy fulfilment of them. Then, as St. Peter Damian says, "let us rejoice in Mary, the most blessed Mother of God, for she bears a new message unto
the world, being the beginning of man's salvation; let us rejoice in the day on which was born the Queen of the World, the Gate of Heaven, the Portal of Paradise, the Tent of God, the Star of the Sea and the Ladder of Heaven, upon which the Supreme King in infinite humility deigned to descend to us, and upon which we may rise from our dust to heaven. To-day the most glorious Virgin is born, from whom shall proceed, as a bridegroom from his chamber, the most beautiful of the sons of men; to-day she leaves her mother's womb, who deserves to be the temple of God."
At the Introit of the Mass the Church sings: Hail, holy parent, who didst bring forth the King, who rules heaven and earth for ever. My heart hath uttered a good word: I speak my works to the King. (Ps. xliv.) Glory &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Vouchsafe, Lord, we beseech Thee, to us Thy servants, the gift of Thy heavenly grace: that as in the childbirth of the blessed Virgin our salvation began, so from the votive solemnity of her Nativity we may obtain an increase of peace. Thro.' &c.
LESSON (Prov. viii. 22 35.) THE Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything, from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made, The depths were not as yet, and I was already conceived: neither had the fountains of waters as yetsprung out: the mountains with their huge bulk had not as yet been established: before the hills I was brought forth: he had not yet made the earth, nor the rivers, nor the poles of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was present; when, with a certain law and compass, he enclosed the depths; when he established the sky above, and poised the fountains of waters; when he compassed the sea with its bounds, and set a law to the waters, that they should not pass their limits; when he balanced the foundations of the earth. I was with him, forming all things, and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times, playing in the world; and my delights were to be with the children of men. Now, therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my door. He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.
EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION. Above all, this lesson is a eulogy on the divine, uncreated Wisdom, the eternal- Son of God, through whom all is made, arranged and provided, who rejoices at and loves His works, and invites man to love, follow and worship Him, whilst He extends to him temporal and eternal happiness in return. The Church, however, reads this lesson on this festival, because the most of it is also applicable to Mary. For, truly, she can be said to excel all creatures in holiness, and to enjoy a place nearer to God than any other being. And for this reason does the Church refer to her these words of the Wise Man: "I came out of the mouth of the most High, the first-born before all creatures." (Ecclus. xxiv. 5.)
For she is , as St. Richard says , the most worthy of all, and no one can ever arrive at the full measure of her purity or any of her supernatural gifts; nor, therefore, does any creature display the wonders of God's bounty in a degree equal to that of Mary. Do thou then, also, O pious soul, admire this masterpiece of the Almighty and rejoice in it. But let not mere admiration suffice; hear the words that Mary addresses to you in this lesson: "Now, therefore, ye children, hear me: Blessed are they that keep my ways," (Prov. viii. 32.) which means, follow her footprints, walking before God in humility, innocence and meekness as she has done. "Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates, and waiteth at the posts of my door." (Id. 34.) According to St. Alphonsus, Mary addresses us thus: "Blessed is he who listeneth to my counsels, and tireth not at the gate of my mercy, invoking my intercession and aid. He that shall find me, shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord." St. Bonaventure also exclaims: "All ye who thirst for the kingdom of God, O hear what is promised you, namely, life and salvation, if ye but honor Mary." Therefore often make use of the following words of St. Chrysostom: "Hail Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, hail Heaven in which dwelleth God Himself, hail Throne of grace, whence God distributeth His graces unto us, oh, ever intercede for us with Jesus, so that owing to thy prayer we may obtain pardon of our sins and eternal happiness."
GOSPEL. (Matt. i. i 1 6.) THE book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Judas, and his brethren. And Judas begot Phares and Zara of Thamar. And Phares begot Esron. And Esron begot Aram. And Aram begot Aminadab. And Aminadab begot Naasson. And Naasson begot Salmon. And Salmon begot Booz of Rahab. And Booz begot Obed of Ruth. And Obed begot Jesse. And Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon, of her that had been the wife of Urias. And Solomon begot Roboam. And Roboam begot Abias. And Abias begot Asa. And Asa begot Josaphat. And Josaphat begot Joram. Andjoram begot Ozias. And Ozias begot Joatham. And Joatham begot Achaz. And Achaz begot Ezechias. And Ezechias begot Manasses. And Manasses begot Amon. And Amon begot Josias. And Josias begot Jechonias and his brethren in the transmigration of Babylon. And, after the transmigration ofBabylon, Jechonias begot Salathiel. And Salathiel begot Zorobab'el. And Zorobab begot Abiud. And Abiud begot Eliacim. And Eliacim begot Azor. And Azor begot Sadoc. And Sadoc begot Achim. And Achim begot Eliud. And Eliud begot Eleazar. And Eleazar begot Mathan. And Mathan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Why does St. Matthew commence his gospel by enumerating Christs birth according to the flesh?
In order to confute those sectarians who affirmed that Christ's body was not real, but only a phantom. Hence it is that St. Matthew enumerates singly the forefathers from whom Christ descended according to His sacred humanity.
Why are even sinful women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ?
In order to show that Christ, who for the sake of sinners came down from heaven, disdained not to descend from such, in order to inspire all sinners with the hope of salvation and to take away the sins of all. Moreover, this is to teach us that we need not blush at the faults of parents or relatives, provided we do not share them; nor need we at all be ashamed of their humble condition, for true nobility is displayed in our own virtues and not in the deeds of our ancestors.
Why is Joseph's, and not Mary's^genealogy read?
Because it was customary among the Jews for wards to receive the name, and also to inherit the rights of their foster-fathers, such as Joseph was to Jesus; and Mary, being the only daughter of her father, and therefore sole heiress, was obliged to take a husband out of her own tribe and family, according to the law; (Num. xxxvi. 6.) hence it follows that Mary was of the tribe of David. St. Luke details this in chapter iii. (23-38.) of his gospel, where he gives Mary's genealogy, enumerating her ancestors from Adam to Heli, that is, Joachim, the father of Mary.
Why does St. Matthew not say, Joseph begot Jesus, but only mentions Joseph as Mary's husband?
To evince that Jesus was not begotten in Mary by Joseph, but supernaturally by the Holy Ghost.
Oh most pure and spotless Virgin! how beautiful and perfect thou art. Never hast thou suffered from a single stain. I desire that all the world should recognize thee as that perfect and spotless dove which thy divine bridegroom declares thee to be; as that closed up garden, the favorite dwelling-place of God; as that pure lily growing among thorns, that is, the children of Adam, who come into the world already sullied with sin and as enemies to God. I too am born a sinner, yea, after baptism I have voluntarily stained my soul by sins. Oh, then, Immaculate Mother, do thou assist me in recovering my innocence, so that Jesus, thy Son, may at the hour of my death receive me into the number of His elect. Amen.