Thomas A. Droleskey
Today is one of the greatest feast days in the whole of the liturgical calendar: the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is a day of great rejoicing. The New Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Gate of Heaven, the Morning Star, the Tower of David, the House of Ivory, the House of Gold, the Mirror of Justice, the Seat of Wisdom, indeed, the Mother of God was born on this day.
Words from a sinner whose immortal soul has been stained all too frequently by his all-too-casual embrace of the very thing, sin, from which Our Lady was preserved from the first moment of her conception and which caused her Immaculate Heart to break at the foot of the Cross are inadequate to describe the glory and the profundity of this day. Unlike the birth of any other child, the birth of Our Lady, who was filled with grace from the moment of her conception, was a cause of angelic rejoicing. She who is higher in glory than all of the choirs of the angels, indeed, she who is the Queen of the Angels, came forth from Saint Anne's womb to be the Singular Vessel of Devotion through which the Logos, the Word through Whom all things were made, would be clothed with a perfect human nature at the moment of the Annunciation.
Maria Bambina would become the New Mother of the Living, that is, of all of those who were adopted as sons and daughters of the living God by their regeneration in the baptismal font. Poor, recidivist sinners have an advocate before the Throne of Grace in Our Lady of Grace, the Mediatrix of all graces, the Co-Redemptrix, our Advocate. We intercede with her every time we pray the Hail Mary, asking her to pray for us nunc, et in hora mortis nostrae. We who would be lost without her and must endeavor never to lose our tender devotion to her and to make this day, Marymas, one of true celebration, starting with Holy Mass itself.
It is best to let saints and learned, holy priests discourse on the glories of this great feast.
From Saint Alphonsus Liguori's The Glories of Mary:
Men usually celebrate the birth of their children with great feasts and rejoicings; but they should rather pity them, and show signs of mourning and grief on reflecting that they are born, not only deprived of grace and reason, but worse than this--they are infected with sin and are children of wrath, and therefore condemned to misery and death. It is indeed right, however, to celebrate with festivity and universal joy the birth of our infant Mary; for she first saw the light of this World a babe, it is true, in point of age, but great in merit and virtue. Mary was born a saint, and a great saint. But to form an idea of the greatness of her sanctity, even at this early period, we must consider, first, the greatness of the first grace with which God enriched her; and secondly, the greatness of her fidelity in immediately corresponding to it.
To begin with the first point, it is certain that Mary's soul was the most beautiful that God had ever created; nay more, after the work of the Incarnation of the Eternal Word, this was the greatest and most worthy of Himself than an omnipotent God ever did in the world. St. Peter Damian calls it "a work only surpassed by God." Hence it follows that divine grace did not come into Mary by drops as in other saints, but like rain on the fleece, as it was foretold by David. The soul of Mary was like fleece, and imbibed the whole shower of grace, without losing a drop. St. Basil of Seleucia says, "that the holy Virgin was full of grace, because she was elected and pre-elected by God, and the Holy Spirit was about to take full possession of her." Hence she said, by the lips of Ecclesiasticus, My abode is in the full assembly of saints; that is, as St. Bonaventure explains it, "I hold in plenitude all that other saints have held in part." And St. Vincent Ferrer, speaking particularly of the sanctity of Mary before her birth, says "that the Blessed Virgin was sanctified" (surpassed in sanctity) "in her mother's womb above all saints and angels."
Saint Alphonsus went on to describe how Our Lord immediately cooperated with the graces that filled her soul from the first moment of her conception:
It is not a private opinion [the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was defined solemnly by Pope Pius IX in 1854] only says a learned author, Father La Colombiere, but it is the opinion of all that the holy child, when she received sanctifying grace in the womb of Saint Anne, received also the perfect use of her reason, and was also divinely enlightened in a degree corresponding to the grace with which she was enriched. So that we may well believe, that from the first moment that her beautiful soul was united to her most pure body, she, by the light she had received from the wisdom of God, knew well the eternal truths, the beauty of virtue and above all, the infinite goodness of God; and how much he deserved to be loved by all, and particularly by herself, on account of the singular gifts with which he had adorned and distinguished her above all creatures, by preserving her from the stain of original sin, by bestowing on her so immense grace, and destining her to be the Mother of the Eternal Word, and Queen of the universe.
Hence from that first moment Mary, grateful to God, began to do all that she could do, by immediately and faithfully trafficking with that great capital of grace which had been bestowed upon her; and applying herself entirely to please and love the divine goodness, from that moment she loved him with all her strength, and continued thus to love him always, during the whole of the nine months preceding her birth, during which she never ceased for a moment to unite herself more and more closely with God by fervent acts of love. She was already free from original sin, and hence was exempt from every earthly affection, from every irregular movement, from every distraction, from every opposition on the part of the senses, which could in any way have hindered her from always advancing more and more in divine love; her senses also concurred with her blessed spirit in tending towards God. Hence her beautiful soul, free from every impediment, never lingered, but always flew towards God, always loved him, and always increased in love towards him.
It was for this reason that she called herself a plane tree, planted by flowing waters: As a plane tree by the waters. . .was I exalted. For she was that noble plant of God which always grew by the streams of divine grace. And therefore she also calls herself a vine. As a vine I have brought forth a pleasant odor. Not only because she was so humble in the eyes of the world, but because she was like the vine, which, according to the common proverb, "never ceases to grow." Other trees--the orange tree, the mulberry, the pear tree--have a determined height, which they attain; but the vine always grows, and grows to the height of the tree to which it is attached. And this did the most Blessed Virgin always grow in perfection. "Hail, then, O vine, always growing!" says St. Gregory Thaumaturgus [the Wonder Worker]; for she was always united To God, on whom alone she depended. Hence it was of her that the Holy Spirit spoke, saying, Who is this that cometh up from the desert, flowing with delights, leaning upon her beloved? which St. Ambrose thus paraphrases: "She it is that cometh up, clinging to the Eternal Word, as a vine to a vine stock." Who is this accompanied by the divine Word, grows as a vine planted against against the great tree?
Indeed, Our Lady is the vine that grew up on the planted tree of the Divine Word she made incarnate in her own virginal and immaculate womb by the power of God the Holy Ghost. And as God the Holy Ghost ordered the calendar of Roman Rite of the Catholic Church over the course of time, it is interesting to note that only three births are commemorated in the whole of the liturgical calendar: Our Lord's, His cousin Saint John the Baptist, and the Blessed Mother herself.
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori went on to note:
Many learned theologians say that a soul that possesses a habit of virtue, as long as it corresponds faithfully to the actual grace which it receives from God, always produces and equal act in intensity to the habit it possesses, so much so that it acquires each time a new and double merit, equal to the sum of all the merits previously acquired. This kind of augmentation was, it is said, granted to the angels in the time of their probation; and if it was granted to the angels, who can ever deny that it was granted to the divine Mother when living in this world, and especially during the time of which I speak, that she was in the womb of her mother, in which she was certainly more faithful than the angels in corresponding to divine grace? Mary, then, during the whole of that time, in each moment, doubled that sublime grace which she possessed from the first instant; for, corresponding to her whole strength, and in the most perfect manner in her every act, she subsequently doubled her merits in every instance. So that supposing she had a thousand degrees of grace in the first instance, in the second she had two thousand, in the third four thousand, in the fourth eight thousand, in the fifth sixteenth thousand, in the sixth thirty-two thousand. And we are as yet only at the sixth instance; but multiplied this for an entire day, multiplied for nine months, consider what treasures of grace, merit, and sanctity Mary had already acquired at the moment of her birth?
Let us, then, rejoice with our beloved infant, who was born so holy, so dear to God, and so full of grace. And let us rejoice, not only on her account, but also on our own; for she came into the world full of grace, not only for her own glory, but also for our good. St. Thomas remarks in his eighth treatise, that the most Blessed Virgin was full of grace in three ways: first, she was filled with grace as to her soul, so that from the beginning her beautiful soul belonged all to God. Secondly, she was filled with grace as to her body, so that she merited to clothe the Eternal Word with her most pure flesh. Thirdly, she was filled with grace for the benefit of all, so that all men might partake of it: "She was also full of grace as to its overflowing for the benefit of all men." The angelical Doctor adds, that some Saints have so much grace that it is not only sufficient for themselves, but also for the salvation of many, though not for all men: only to Jesus Christ and to Mary was such a grace given as sufficed to save all: "should any one have as much as would suffice for the salvation of all, this would be the greatest: and this was in Christ and in the Blessed Virgin." Thus far St. Thomas. So that what St. John says of Jesus, "And of His fullness we all have received, the saints say of Mary. St. Thomas of Villanova calls her "full of grace, of whose plentitude all receive;" so so much so that St. Anselm says, "that there is no one who does not partake of the grace of Mary." And who is there in the world to whom Mary is not benign, and does not dispense some mercy? "Who was ever found to whom the Blessed Virgin was not propitious? Who is there whom her mercy does not reach?
From Jesus, however, it is (we must understand) that we receive grace as the author of grace, from Mary as a mediatress; from Jesus as a Savior, from Mary as an advocate; from Jesus as a source, from Mary as a channel. Hence St. Bernard says, that God established Mary as the channel of the mercies that he wished to dispense to men; therefore he filled her with grace, that each one's part might be communicated to him from her fullness; "A full aqueduct, that others may receive of her fullness, but not fullness herself." Therefore the saint exhorts all to consider, with how much love God wills that we should honor this great Virgin, since he has deposited the whole treasure of his graces in her: so that whatever we possess of hope, grace, and salvation, we may thank our most loving Queen for all, since all comes to us from her hands and by her powerful intercession. He thus beautifully expresses himself: "Behold with what tender feelings of devotion he wills that we should honor her! He who has placed the plenitude of all good in Mary; that thus, if we have any hope, or anything salutary in us, we may know that it was from her or that it over-flowed."
Miserable is that soul that closes this channel of grace against itself, by neglecting to recommend itself to Mary! when Holofernes wished to gain possession of the city of Bethulia, he took care to destroy the aqueducts: He commanded their aqueduct to be cut off. And this the devil does when he wishes to become master of a soul; he causes it to give up devotion to the most Blessed Virgin Mary; and when once this channel is closed, it easily loses supernatural light, the fear of God, and finally eternal salvation.
Is this not a very apt description as to what has happened to so many Catholics in the past forty-five to fifty years years? Is this not an apt description of how even some traditionally-minded Catholics who, when given access to the general public via the mass media, refuse at any time to speak at all about the necessity of relying upon Our Lady, especially by means of her Most Holy Rosary, so that we can grow close to her Divine Son through her Immaculate Heart? That is, there are some Catholics who have access to the mass media who refuse to instruct those who are watching and listening to them that Our Lady holds the key to peace in individual souls and thus to peace within and among nations. Why are we so afraid to give the public honor that is due to Our Lady as the Queen Mother of the King Whose Social Reign she wants to see restored in all of its glory. It is bad enough that so many Catholics refuse to be devoted to Our Lady even privately. It is worse yet that those who know better are more afraid of losing "access" (and perhaps income) to the mass media rather than giving honor Our Lady, born for us this day so that she could give a spiritual rebirth to us at the foot of her Divine Son's Cross as He paid back in His Sacred Humanity the blood debt of human sin that was owed to Him in His Infinity as God.
Jacobus de Voragine provided some very interesting stories in The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints concerning Our Lady's parents and the importance of his blessed day:
Blessed Jerome says in the Prologue to his History of the Birth of the Virgin that in his early youth he had read the story in some book, and many years later was asked to put it in writing, so he wrote it down as he remembered it from his early reading. Joachim, a Galilean from the town of Nazareth, took Saint Anna, a native of Bethlehem, as his wife. They were both righteous and walked without reproach in all the commandments of the Lord. They divided all their goods into three parts, one part being reserved for the Temple and its ministers, one for transient strangers and the poor, and the third for their own needs and those of their household. They lived for twenty years without offspring and made a vow to the Lord that if he granted them a child, they would dedicate it to the service of God. With this in mind they went up to Jerusalem for the three principal feasts. Once, when Joachim and his kinsmen traveled to Jerusalem for the feat of the Dedication, he went with the others to the altar to make his offering. When the priest saw him, he angrily ordered him away and unbraided him for presuming to approach the altar of God, declaring that it was not proper for one who was subject to the Lord's curse to offer sacrifice to the Lord of the Law, nor for a sterile man, who made no increase to the people of God, to stand among men who begot sons.
Joachim, seeing himself, thus rejected, was ashamed to go home and face the contempt of his kinsmen, who had heard the priest's denunciation. Instead he went and lived with his shepherds. Then one day an angel appeared with great brilliance to him when he was alone. He was disturbed by the apparition, but the angel told him not to be afraid and said: "I am an angel of the Lord, sent to announce to you that your prayers have been heard and your alms have ascended in the sight of the Lord. I have seen how you were put to same, and heard the reproach of childlessness wrongly put upon you. God punishes not nature but sin, and therefore, when he closes a woman's womb, he does this in order to open it miraculously later on, and to make it known that what is born is not the fruit of carnal desire but of the divine generosity. Did not the first mother of your race suffer the shame of childlessness until she was ninety years old, and yet bore Isaac, to whom was promised the blessing of all nations? Was not Rachel barren for a long time and yet bore Joseph, who had power over all Egypt? Who was stronger than Samson or holier than Samuel? Yet they both had sterile mothers. Believe these reasons and examples, which show that delayed conceptions and infertile childbearing are usually all the more wonderful! So then, your wife will bear you a daughter and yo will call her Mary. As you have vowed, she will be consecrated to the Lord from infancy and filled with the Holy Spirit from her mother's womb. She will not live outside the common people but will abide in the Temple at all times, lest any sinister suspicion be aroused about her. And, as she will be born of an unfruitful mother, so, miraculously, the Son of the Most High will be born of her. His name will be Jesus, and through him all nations will be saved. And let this be a sign to you: when you arrive at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem, Anna your wife will be there waiting for you. She has been worried because you were so late and will be glad at the sight of you." With these words the angel left him.
Meanwhile Anna was weeping bitterly, not knowing where her husband had gone, when the same angel appeared to her, revealed to her the same things he had told Joachim, and added that, for a sign, she should go to Jerusalem's Golden Gate, where she would meet her husband as he returned. So they met as the angel had predicted, and were happy to see each other and to be sure they were to have a child. They adored God and went to their home, joyfully awaiting the fulfillment of the divine promise. Anna conceived and brought forth a daughter, and they called her name Mary. When she was weaned at the age of three, the parents brought her to the Lord's Temple with offerings. Around the Temple there were fifteen steps, corresponding to the fifteen Gradual Psalms, and because the Temple was built on a hill, there was no way to go to the altar of the holocaust, which stood in the open, except by climbing the steps. The virgin child was set down at the lowest step and mounted to the top without help from anyone, as if she were already fully grown up.
Having made their offering, Joachim and Anna left their daughter in the Temple with the other virgins and went home. Mary advanced steadily in all holiness. Angels visited her every day, and she enjoyed the vision of God daily. In a latter to Chromatius and Heliodorus, Jerome says that the Blessed Virgin had made a rule for herself: the time from dawn to the third hour she devoted to prayer, from the third to the ninth hour she worked at weaving, and from the ninth hour on she prayed without stopping until and angel appeared and brought her food.
Archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, O.P., offered a brief history on how this day has been commemorated liturgically:
The day of the Blessed Virgin's birth was unknown to the faithful for a long time. Then, as John Beleth tells it, there was a holy man, diligent in the practice of contemplation, who every year on the eighth day of September, heard, as he prayed, the joyous choirs of angels chanting solemn paeans. He devoutly prayed to know why he heard this annually on this day and on no other. He received a response from God, that on this day the glorious Virgin Mary had been born to the world, and that he should make this known to the children of Holy Church so that they might join the court of heaven in celebrating her birthday. He passed this knowledge on to the supreme pontiff and others, and they, fasting and praying and searching the Scriptures and ancient documents to ascertain the truth, decreed that this day should be celebrated throughout the world in honor of holy Mary's birth.
There was a time when the octave of Mary's birth was not solemnized, but Pope Innocent, a native of Genoa, instituted its celebration, for the following reason. After the death of Pope Gregory, the Romans locked all the cardinals in a conclave so that they would elected a successor more quickly. But when they not reached an agreement after several weeks, and had to endure many abuses inflicted by the Romans, they made a vow to the Queen of heaven that if by her intercession they agreed on a choice and would be free to go home, they would decree that the long-neglected octave of her birthday should be celebrated from then on. So they elected the lord Celestin and were set free. Celestin, however, died in less than a month, and their vow was translated into law by the lord Innocent.
De Voragine also offered some wonderful stories to be contemplated on this this glorious day. Here are a few:
There was a cleric who loved the Blessed Virgin devotedly and recited her hours faithfully. When his parents died, having no other offspring they left their whole estate to him. His friends them pressed him to take a wife and manage his heritage. On the appointed day he was on the way to his wedding and was passing a church, when he remembered his service to Mary, went into the church, and began to say her hours. The Blessed Virgin appeared to him and, as if angry, said: "O foolish, unfaithful man!" Why are you leaving me, your friend and spouse, for another woman?" The cleric was filled with remorse at this, but he returned to his companions, hiding his distress, and went through with the wedding. At midnight, however, he left everything behind and fled from his house, entered a monastery, and devoted himself to Mary's service.
The priest of a certain parish, a man of virtuous life, knew no other mass than the mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he celebrated day after day in her honor. This was brought to the bishop's attention, and he called the priest in immediately. The priest told him that he did not know any other mass. The bishop scolded him harshly, called him an impostor, suspended him from his parish duties, and forbade him to celebrate Mary's mass. The following night Blessed Mary appeared to the bishop, rebuked him severely, and asked why he had treated her servant so badly. She added that he would die within thirty days unless he reinstated the priest in his parish. The bishop, shaken, summoned the priest, begged his pardon, and ordered him to celebrate no other mass than the one he knew, the mass of the Virgin Mary.
There was a cleric who was vain and dissolute, yet loved the mother of God devotedly and recited her office piously and promptly. One night, in a vision, he saw himself standing before God's judgment seat and heard the Lord saying to those present: "It is yours to decided what judgment the man who is looking at you deserves. I have tolerated his conduct for a long time and to this day have seen no sign of amendment in him." Then the Lord, with unanimous approval, pronounced a sentence of damnation upon the cleric. But now he saw the Blessed Virgin rise and say to her Son: "Loving Son, I ask your clemency for this man. Mitigate his sentence of damnation, and, as a favor to me, let him live, although what he really deserves is death." "I grant your petition," the Lord answered, "on condition that from how on I see him amend his ways." The Virgin turned to the man and said: "Go and sin no more, that nothing worse befall you." The man awoke, changed his way of living, became a religious, and spent the rest of his life in good works.
There is a salutary lesson in that last story for each one of us, that we must amend our ways and be assiduous in a daily acts of love for and devotion to the woman who made possible our salvation by her perfect fiat when Saint Gabriel the Archangel announced to her that she would be the Mother of God. I know that my sins deserved a sentence of eternal damnation. My only hope is that Our Lady, the Queen of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope, will continue to intercede for me to live penitentially and to amend my ways on a daily basis, offering up to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart whatever merit I am able to achieve in this mortal life in cooperation with the graces won for us by the shedding of her Divine Son's Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross and flow through her, the Mediatrix of all graces.
The birth of Our Lady on this day, September 8, reminds us that we must be reborn constantly in the Sacrament of Penance by having even the seemingly smallest of our venial faults eradicated by regular, humble confessions, resolving ever more to cooperate with the sanctifying graces we receive in this Sacrament of Divine Mercy so that we might make Mary's glories known to all we know and to all we meet, thus aspiring and striving constantly to have the highest place in Heaven next to that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, please her Divine Son that we die in a state of sanctifying grace.
We must fly unto Our Lady with every beat of our hearts, consecrated as they must be to her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart and through that Heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
We must trust in Our Lady completely, especially in these times of civil and ecclesiastical confusion, ever standing close to her at the foot of the Cross as the Sacrifice of the Cross is offered in an unbloody manner by an alter Christus in Holy Mass.
We must fly unto Our Lady with childlike confidence, surrendering ourselves to her as her consecrated slaves without a moment's hesitation, knowing that she who brought us forth as the adopted children of God in great pain as she stood by the Cross of her Divine Son wants us to call upon her and to know that she hears our prayers and will answer them in ways that will be understood fully only in eternity.
We meditate on this day, the day of Our Lady's birth, on the wonder of her having appeared to mortal men and women and children to beg them to promote devotion to her:
Think of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who helped to propagate devotion to Our Lady in the Twelfth Century.
Think of Saint Dominic de Guzman, to whom Our Lady gave her Most Holy Rosary in the Thirteenth Century.
Think of Blessed Father Alan de la Roche, to whom Our Lady begged to promote her Most Holy Rosary anew.
Think of Juan Diego, to whom Our Lady gave a miraculous image of herself that still converts the heathen to the true Faith and is meant to convert the entirety of the Americas to Catholicism, the one and only foundation of personal and social order.
Think of Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres and the message of Our Lady of Good Success that is so relevant to our times.
Think of the Venerable Mary of Agreda, who wrote The Mystical City of God at Our Lady's direction.
Think of Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, who wrote so beautifully on the glories of Mary.
Think of Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort, who taught us the path of True Devotion to Mary.
Think of Saint Catherine Laboure, to whom Our Lady revealed herself as the Mediatrix of all graces and asked for devotion to the Miraculous Medal.
Think of Sister Justine Bisqueyburo, to whom Our Lady, on this very day one hundred seventy-one, gave her Green Scapular to save those who are without any other hope or means of saving their souls, doing so in the very same convent of the Daughters of Charity on the Rue de Bac in Paris, France, where she had appeared to Sister Catherine Laboure ten years before.
Think of Maximim and Melanie, to whom Our Lady appeared at La Salette in tears of sorrow about the dissolute ways of Catholics and the future of Holy Mother Church in this time of apostasy and betrayal.
Think of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, to whom Our Lady appeared at Lourdes to confirm the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Think of Father Frederick Faber, whose keen insights into the Dolors of Mary provide us with so much inspiration to this very day.
Think of Jacinta and Francisco Marto and Lucia dos Santos, to whom Our Lady appeared in the Cova da Iria at Fatima and entrusted the Message for our times, that concerning the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart and of the necessity of our praying our Rosaries for the conversion and salvation of poor sinners as we attempt to make reparation for our own sins and those of the whole world.
Think of how our hearts must burn with desire to see Our Lady pleading for us mercifully at the moment of our Particular Judgment.
Today is a day on which we should strive especially diligently to pray all fifteen decades of Our Lady's Most Holy Rosary. Today is a day to get to the Sacrament of Penance, to assist at the Immemorial Mass of Tradition offered by a true bishop or a true priest, to spend time before her Divine Son's Real Presence, to read commentaries about the glories that expressed themselves as Saint Anne gave birth to her beloved daughter, Mary of Nazareth, Our Lady.
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., composed the following prayer in his commentary on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in The Liturgical Year:
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 Kin they will soon adore, a new-born Babe in thine arms; their Queen they reverence to-day, 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 they 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.
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori's prayer for this great feast day is also edifying for us to consider and take to our own hearts, consecrated as they must be to Our Lady's own Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart:
O holy and heavenly Infant, Thou who art the destined Mother of my Redeemer and the great mediatress of miserable sinners, pity me. Behold at thy feet another ungrateful sinner who has recourse to thee and asks thy compassion. It is true, that for my ingratitude to God and to thee I deserve that God and thou should abandon me; but I have heard, and believe it to be so (knowing the greatness of thy mercy), that thou dost not refuse to help any one who recommends himself to thee with confidence. O most exalted creature in the world! since this is the case, and since there is no one but God above thee, so that compared with thee the greatest saints of heaven are little; O saint of saints, O Mary! abyss of charity, and full of grace, succor a miserable creature who by his own fault has lost the divine favor. I know that thou art so dear to God that he denies me nothing. I now also that thy pleasure is to use thy greatness for the relief of miserable sinners. Ah, then, show how great is the favor that thou enjoyest with god, by obtaining me a divine light and flame so powerful that I may be changed from a sinner into a saint; and detaching myself from every earthly affection, divine love may be enkindled in me. Do this, O lady, for thou canst do it. Do it for the love of God, who has made thee so great, so powerful, and so compassionate. This is my hope. Amen.
Happy birthday, dear Blessed Mother.
Thank you for suffering as our Co-Redemptrix to make it possible for us to be your spiritual sons by means of adoption, given to us by your Divine Son as your stood beneath His Most Holy Cross to be our Mother in this life and for all eternity.
Thank you for being so patient and so kind to us erring sinners.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, for us nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
Maria Bambina, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, chaste spouse of the Mother of God and the foster-father of the Word Who was made flesh in her womb, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, given by Our Lord Himself to be Mary's son, pray for us.
Saint Dominic, to whom was entrusted the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, pray for us.
Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, who sang the glories of Mary, pray for us.
Saint Philomena, pray for us.
Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort, apostle of total consecration to Mary, pray for us.
Saint Hadrian, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette Soubirous, pray for us.
Maria Bambina, Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome, Italy, May 24, 2005