A BIRTHDAY CELEBRATES that an individual is in our lives now - today. And while over the millenia the Church has chosen different days to keep Mary's birthday, it has done so since about the 6th century. The East sings at the liturgy:
Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death, O Immaculate One, by thy Holy Nativity. And thy people, redeemed from the guilt of sin, celebrate thy birth by crying to thee: The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God and the nurse of our life.
I like this painting of Mary and her mother, Anna. The mother's women friends are around, probably amazed at the birth (Anna was considered to be beyond child-bearing) and heaven has opened to us in the presence of angels. Anna is buxom and strong-armed. God is going to need strength to yank us back from the greed-sin that wants to engulf us.
God has given us this paradise-planet and we've raped it - pulling out of it every bit of material we can use for products either exploded in wars or to create garbage mountains. In the birth of the child Mary, God sets out in strength to claim us as his own, saving us from the vicious and life-denying sin of consumerism.
Western Christians begin a new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent while Eastern Christians begin their Liturgical Year today with the Nativity of Mary. We are always beginning again, Dorothy Day said. Beginning again in prayer. Beginning again in sobriety after a lapse. Beginning to break some old and useless life-approach. Beginning a new school year. Beginning another year of committed love.
The Feast Day focuses our attention upon a little girl. We might hold most closely in our prayer and thoughts the children of the world. It is reported that 17,000 children die everyday of starvation. And after weeks of being showered with rockets, the children of Gaza are in truth shell-shocked and in desperate need of inner healing. Their parents gone they're now left vulnerable to exploitation and long term neglect.
What can we do? We can care. That's not for nothing as they say. Many headlines are about the salacious nude photographs of actresses hacked from the Internet. Talk about twisted news priorities. And of course, there are numerous organizations that are trying to help, one of which we might choose to support, if even a little.
I worked as a chaplain to a large University Hospital years ago. Remarkable people were found on staff all over the place, but the nurses were the real heroes (and the cleaning staff)! Mary is called the nurse of our life in the prayer above. The nurse is the medicine giver, the soother, the one who often catches and identifies the yet-to-be detected problem, the go-between. Mary, the nurse of our life!