When was the Mother of God born? We can't know for certain, of course, but for almost 15 centuries now, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated on September 8. Those who are quick with math have already figured out that September 8 is exactly nine months after December 8--the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
In earlier centuries, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was celebrated with greater fanfare--indeed, Mary's birth is one of only three celebrated by the Church. (See Who Was Born Without Original Sin? for more details.) Today, however, most Catholics probably don't even realize that the Church has a special feast day set aside to celebrate it. But, like the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an important date in our salvation history. Christ needed a mother, and Mary's conception and birth, therefore, are events without which Christ's own birth would have been impossible.
It's no surprise, then, that the Christians of the second century A.D. recorded the details of Mary's birth in such documents as the Protoevangelium of James and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary. While neither document bears the authority of Scripture, they provide us with everything that we know about the life of Mary before the Annunciation, including the names of Saint Mary's parents, Saint Joachim and Saint Anna (or Anne). It's a good example of Tradition, which complements (while never contradicting) Scripture.
(Icon of the Nativity of the Mother of God, egg tempera on wood, Central Russia, mid-1800's. Photo © Slava Gallery, LLC; used with permission.)
More on the Virgin Mary's Birthday and the Immaculate Conception:
- When Is the Virgin Mary's Birthday?
- The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Prayer for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Who Was Born Without Original Sin?
- Icon of the Nativity of the Virgin
- Icon of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Icon of the Nativity of the Mother of God
- What Is the Immaculate Conception?
- The Feast of the Immaculate Conception