September 8: Feast of the birthday of our Blessed Mother Mary

“She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.
Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.””
—Saint Augustine

Tomorrow, 8th day of September we celebrate the feast of the birthday of our blessed mother Mary.  If not for the pandemic, many devotees will flock to Baclaran, which makes it look like an ordinary Wednesday or Sunday.  The Shrine is packed with devotees the whole day. After each mass, devotees heartily sing “Happy Birthday” to Mary. Many offer flowers to her icon and in the altar. This day is always a happy day for many devotees as they share in the joy of the birth of Mary who is their intercessor and companion in the journey of life full of trials and tribulations.

There is no historical record of the birth of Mary. It might come as a surprise to many, however, that during the time of Mary, as in any other Mediterranean societies of ancient times, the birth of a girl is a non-event inasmuch as the birth of a boy is a call for a big feast and celebration.  Mary lived in a society where women were regarded properties of men and second class citizens. Thus, it would not be farfetched to say that Mary never celebrated her own birthday during her lifetime.  Besides, there is no such thing as a yearly celebration of one’s birthday during Mary’s time.

Today, however, birthdays have become a big deal. Could you imagine not celebrating your own birthday?  This means that if you have no money or any food and drinks, you are so ashamed to let anyone know that it is your birthday lest you would incur the butt of teasing from everyone for not throwing a party or offering anything to nibble on.

As the story of our salvation goes, however, Mary was chosen by God to be the bearer of God’s Son into the world. God chose, of all the people, a poor, unknown and humble handmaid notwithstanding the domination of kings, powerful rulers, mighty warriors, wise judges, rich and influential people during her lifetime. Because of bearing God into the world, she was, indeed, “full of grace” and “blessed among all women/men.” God’s election of Mary which brought forth the savior in the world will be a cause of joy for all generations.  This is the primary reason why we are celebrating today her birthday. This celebration is not so much about herself but about all the wonders and bountiful graces that God has done to her. Mary herself would proclaim this in her song of Magnificat,

From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

Mary-birthday2

In the liturgy on this day, the primary theme portrayed on this feast day is that the world had been in the darkness and with the arrival of Mary begins a glimmer of light. That light which appears at Mary’s holy birth pre-announces the arrival of Christ, the Light of the World. Her birth is the beginning of a better world.  The antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah at the Morning Prayer of this day expressed these sentiments in the following way:

“Your birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
proclaims joy to the whole world,
for from you arose the glorious Sun of Justice,
Christ our God;
He freed us from the age-old curse
and filled us with holiness;
he destroyed death and gave us eternal life.”

The birthday of Mary  is a glimmer of light amidst the darkness and uncertainties that we are experiencing because of the pandemic. As we celebrate Mary’s birthday, we express our relentless hope and resilience that we will pass over this great ordeal. Let us continue to ask Mary’s intercession so that someday we would experience the real joy and peace in God’s abundant grace that we have aspired for so long.

Here’s the schedule of Holy masses for the Feast of the Birth of Mary at the shrine. .

September 8: Celebrating Mary’s Birthday

“She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley.
Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.””
—Saint Augustine

This Sunday, September 8, we commemorate the Birth of Mary, Mother of our Lord—a feast which Catholics have been celebrating since at least the sixth century. Since it is Sunday, however, the celebration of Mary’s birthday in the liturgy, gives way to the celebration of the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary time. Indeed, this is what Mary would have intended; she considers herself as mere God’s instrument in the salvation that comes through her Son.

This would not prevent devotees in the Baclaran shrine, however, to celebrate the birthday of our blessed mother Mary.  Many devotees will flock to Baclaran and attend the Sunday mass, and at the same time express affection to Mary on her birthday.  I would not be surprise if after each Sunday mass, devotees will heartily sing “Happy Birthday” to Mary. Many will offer flowers to her icon and in the altar. Indeed, this day is a happy day for many devotees as they share in the joy of the birth of Mary who is their intercessor and companion in the journey of life full of trials and tribulations.

This year’s celebration of Mary’s birthday at the shrine will be special as the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help was officially removed from the high altar on September 5, 2019 to give way for the Altar renovation. Today, September 7, 2019, Saturday, it will be displayed for public veneration and vigil after the 5:45 PM Mass until midnight. This is indeed a special opportunity for devotees as they can have a closer physical contact with the icon as they celebrate the birthday of Mary tomorrow.

Likewise, on September 10, Tuesday, after the 9:30 AM Mass there will be a touching of the icon until midnight. For the rest of the time, the Icon will be secured by the Redemptorists until the altar is ready for her return.

This is a very significant religious event for us, devotees of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. In this very rare occasion, we will have a life time chance to have a face to face encounter with the Icon.

May this experience helps us to reflect and be moved by our God who always goes down from heaven to meet us in the rough grounds of daily living.

removal of icon