The Birth of the Blessed Virgin – Day of Grace
“When I was a little child, I was pleasing to the Most High.” – Office of the Blessed Virgin
As the whole life of our Blessed Lady was full of wonders, so her birth was especially marked by God’s grace. Her holy parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, were past age, and had almost relinquished their part in the hope of being the progenitors of the Messiah. Still there were firm believers in the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and exact observers of all the ordinances of the Jewish law. Almighty God was preparing them for the exalted dignity which awaited them, and they were obedient to His graces. As Sarah waited long for the child of promise, and then became a mother by a miraculous providence, so St. Anne was to wait in hope and faith, and then by an especial dispensation to become the mother of the Queen of Heaven. He that waiteth for God shall never be disappointed, but shall in the end receive graces far beyond even his desire. So St. Anne had never dreamed of the honor which God gave her, but her patience and humility obtained a reward far beyond her hopes. And hence new glory was given to God, for although the Blessed Virgin was conceived in the ordinary manner, yet is was by especial and miraculous power.
We have already spoken of the Immaculate Conception, and now in the birth of our Blessed Lady we are to see some of its glorious consequences. The human soul is the direct subject of grace, while the body participates only in the effect of either the state of grace or the state of sin. So the soul of the Blessed Virgin came pure and spotless from the hand of her Creator, and by her especial privilege she was freed from all the effects of the original curse. Ignorance and darkness were not her portion, and hence from the first beginning of her existence she began to glorify God. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour.” She was the child of grace, and was filled with grace from her mother’s womb. She was able, moreover, to correspond with grace even before her birth, and to glorify God before her eyes were opened upon this sinful world. The fathers tell us that she had attained to great sanctity, and that at her birth she came into the world a marvel of the love and mercy of her Maker. Just, and true, and perfect are all the divine ways, and so the eternal Son, in preparing a Mother, could deny her no grace of which she was capable. St. Thomas says that the Blessed Virgin was full of grace in three ways. Her holy soul, from the beginning, belonged entirely to God. Her body was wholly sanctified in order that she might clothe the eternal Word with flesh, and she was the channel of grace for the benefit of the human race.
We see, therefore, how much she glorified the wisdom and goodness of God, and how her birth contributed to His praise. She came into the world not only pure and spotless in her soul, but united to her Creator and filled with His love. She did not see “through a glass in an obscure manner,” for the mist that veils sensible things, and makes them attractive, was dissolved before the vision of her understanding. She saw God alone in all things, and she glorified every moment of His adorable will. Her body was until then the most beautiful work of God’s hands, the fit habitation of her sanctified soul. And when she opened her eyes upon nature and rested her infant head upon her aged mother’s arms, God received an immense honor, such as He had never received before from any of His creatures. The brightest archangel in all his dazzling splendor was not so beautiful in His eyes as the infant grace of Mary, the child of promise, who had already wrestled victoriously with the strong adversary, who was fore-ordained the chosen Mother of His well-beloved Son. Over that cradle of the Immaculate, angels bowed themselves, while evil spirits fled away in terror. With her birth began a new day of grace for fallen man, and the long line of the living, regenerate race seemed in spirit to cluster around the birth place of the Mother. The morning star arose, and the divine purposes were ripening, and the great work of man’s redemption approached its completion. The beginning was the sure pledge and foretaste of the end. Mary was born full of grace for our sakes, in order that she might communicate it to her fellow-creatures. She was born holy; she was born to be the Mother of God; but she was also born to be our great intercessor with her Son, to shield us with her prayers, and to communicate to the Church the benefits of the Incarnation and the Cross. While, then, in contemplating the glories of Mary’s birth, our first thought is of God’s honor, our second thought should be of the graces we have received in consequence of this very birth. On this day we should review our lives past, and count up the mercies we have to answer for in the great day of account. If we cannot answer for our thousand sins, how can we answer for our thousand graces? We have sinned against the light, and against the monitions of our own consciences. We have no excuse to plead for our wayward course, for God has all along been following us, and His Spirit has been continually calling us to repentance. We can see His hands in all the dispensations of His providence. Here He gave us joy, that by His goodness He might run our hearts. Here He gave us affliction, that He might draw our affections from earthly vanities to an enduring good. No father ever followed an erring child with more patient affection than our Lord has followed us. To use His own words, He has stood at the door of our hearts knocking, like a suppliant, for entrance, and we have more than once refused to let Him in. how unlike we are to our Blessed Mother, in whose heart every grace of God was fruitful! Yet even now it is the day of grace with us, and Mary calls to us by the beauty of her childhood, wholly consecrated to her Creator, to turn from the sins which have made so barren our spiritual life. Now God calls us, and gives the power to obey His call. Whether we be in the morning of life, or in the noonday of manhood, or in the evening of declining age, we have much to do before our probation closes. Time is short, and eternity is long. That which our hands find to do, let us do it with all our might, for the night cometh when no man can work. This sacred month will be to us a new responsibility, as it is a new grace from God, destined to effect the great end of our being, the salvation of our souls. Let us accept this merciful interposition of our Lord, and open our hearts, and stir up our wills to obey His call. The grace which filled the soul and body of the infant Virgin will overflow to us, and enable us to walk in her footsteps.