by Rev. Dr. Ildefonso R. Villar
The birthdays of men. We celebrate our birthday as a day of rejoicing. It is customary to rejoice at the birth of a child, more especially if he is the first-born. What a joy, how many congratulations are given to the happy parents! And yet how many times we ought rather to weep. Some children are confronted with an unhappy future. Our hopes of baby's future happiness are doubtful and uncertain. We know for certain that the child will have to suffer. Nobody teaches him to cry and yet how quickly he learns to weep. And tears will never long be absent from his eyes, nor sorrow from his heart.
The same happens in the spiritual order. The newly-born child is a slave of the devil. He is stained with Original Sin. He, although he looks so innocent, is deprived of Heaven. As yet Heaven is not his inheritance. He will indeed receive Baptism, and with that blessed Sacrament comes the miraculous gift of grace, but how long will that grace last? The age of reason is often the beginning of a story of sin. Alas, we are generally made aware that children have reached the age of reason because they have begun to show signs of malice. It is a sad truth that sorrow, tears, uncertainty, sin, and concupiscence surround every cradle.
How the Church views birthdays. Holy Mother Church does not celebrate birthdays as does the world. Instead, She rejoices just when the world puts on the garments of mourning. If you read the Martyrology, you will see how the Church commemorates the day of death, and considers such a day as dies natalis, the birthday for Heaven. The Church generally appoints the very day of the death of the saint as his feast day, ignoring the day on which he was born into this world. The principles, then, are diametrically opposed. The world looks at things with earthly eyes, rejoicing at the beginnings of earthly life. The Church looks forward to the heavenly life and cares not for the earthly birthday, but only for birth into Heaven. Who is right? Naturally, the point of view of our Holy Mother the Church is the true one, as She is infallibly guided by the Holy Ghost. The day on which we are born marks the beginning of a trail of sorrow.
We are born with the sentence of death and suffering on our heads. The day of our death marks the beginning of the true life which will know neither death, nor end, nor pain, nor sorrow, but only a happy and hallowed eternity. This then is our real life; and only our birth to this eternal life is worthy of celebration.
The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, there is an exception to this general rule. The Church Herself admits it. She, who usually never cares for the earthly birthday of her sons, one day by an extraordinary exception puts on Her garments of joy and gives signs of great joy and inexpressible tenderness. She has established a special feast to celebrate the feast of our Heavenly Mother. The Woman predestined to be the Mother of God appears on this earth with a soul holy and immaculate, with the same purity and sanctity that She had when she sprang from the hands of God. Her earthly life is a life of grace, a heavenly life, a divine life. That is why the Church in Her liturgy rejoices and bids us all rejoice: Let us with great joy celebrate the Nativity of the most Holy Virgin Mary, because Her birth has filled with joy the whole universe. Rejoice, you also, and congratulate your beloved Mother, the only One who with Her earthly life brings the seed of a life of grace, not only for herself, but for all of mankind.
The Nativity of Our Heavenly Mother is a motive of universal joy for Heaven and earth. At Her birth God rejoices, and with Him, the Angels, Saints, and the entire Church.
God's Joy. Mary is the masterpiece of His hands. When, says the Book of Genesis, the Lord saw the things He had created, they appeared good to Him and He rejoiced in them. How much more, then, does He rejoice at seeing Mary! Enter deeply into this consideration. Remember how man had sinned; how through his sin the whole creation and the plans of God were disturbed. God could no longer look at the earth with delight. There was nowhere for His eyes to alight. Everywhere the kingdom of sin was established. But then, Mary appears, and all changes. After thousands of years God looks again at creation to find it beautiful and pleasing. He looks at the earth and men and no longer takes His eyes from them in disgust. In Mary, He again sees His perfect and pure reflection; and through Mary, He again sees His image reflected in the rest of creation, restored to its original beauty. What joy to find her so pure, so holy, so full of grace!
Contemplate the Eternal Father taking delight in the birth of His most beloved Daughter. See God the Son looking with ineffable love at the one whom He will call by the most sweet name of Mother. See the Holy Ghost so interested in this little Maiden whom He wants gifted from the very first moment of Her life with more grace, beauty, sanctity and purity than all the saints together. With what immense love did the Holy Ghost place in her soul, one by one, all the virtues that were to adorn the Heart of His Most Beloved Spouse!
The Joy of the Angels. After God, and together with God, the Angels rejoiced. Their Queen and Mistress has just been born. She is the one who, after the Divine Essence, will be the most beautiful sight in Heaven. With this little Maiden they try to compare all the beautiful things of the Heavenly court, and they admit that after God nothing can be compared with her.
Somebody has suggested that the revolt of the rebellious angels in Heaven was because God revealed to them that they must one day adore His Son made man and that they must acknowledge the Mother of that Son as their Queen. It is thought that the proud Lucifer felt hurt and humiliated at the thought that he should abase himself before a Woman whom he considered less perfect than himself. Consequently, refusing to obey, he raised the cry of rebellion that swept so many angels to Hell. If such was the case, it is clear how the Devil, full of wrath and despair, must today acknowledge that Mary is incomparably more beautiful than he was, and that his rebellion was the supremacy of folly.
On the other hand, see how today the good Angels rejoice now more than ever for having been faithful to God, since, far from being humiliated, it is an immense glory for them to have Mary as their Queen. See them, all joyful and eager, unable to restrain their enthusiasm, coming down in innumerable legions to the cradle of Mary, desirous to be the first to venerate her and offer her their homage. Hear also, the roaring of the infernal beast as the tiny foot commences to crush him. The Devil will throughout all eternity feel the smashing defeat that so much humiliates him. For all eternity he will feel crushed under the delicate foot of that Maiden. What a fitting shame for him, what well-deserved humiliation!
The joy of the Saints in the bosom of Abraham. In spite of their being just and holy, the poor souls who were still in the bosom of Abraham could not yet enjoy the glory of Heaven. Among them we see the souls of the great patriarchs, prophets, and other prominent figures of the Old Testament. Centuries and centuries have passed, and the day of freedom had still not dawned for them. How long were those hours of waiting. How eternal are days when we are longing for something and our expectations are not realized! What then must have been the longing of those souls! Now look at them again on the day when the Lord informs them that the predestined Woman has already reached the earth; that the Mother of the promised Messias has already been born; that the Mother of the One Who is going to set them free is already alive. You can imagine the joy, the hymns of gratitude that they intone to the Lord, the praises with which they greeted our Blessed Lady. Now they count the hours, the time that still remains for them in prison, after which there will come eternal freedom, a freedom brought about by a charming Maiden just newly born.
Share the joy and enthusiasm of the Angels and of the just. Prostrate before the cradle of Mary. Join them in praise.
If the joy of God and of the Angels in the Nativity of Mary was great, ours shall be no less, because, after all, Our Blessed Lady was born especially for us. She has our own nature, and it is we who are to enjoy the benefits of that happy birth.
Our Joy. The birth of our Heavenly Mother is the end of a sad night; a night of centuries during which mankind was buried. Isaias says that men were submerged in the shadows of death, since sad indeed is the night of sin, and nothing can be compared with it so well as the black and terrible darkness of death.
See mankind filing past without seeing a ray of light in the midst of that darkness. How sad is night. What, then, would be a night of many years, of many centuries? In the midst of this night there used to shine a few holy souls, but in comparison with the surrounding darkness their light was as nothing. The darkness could not be dispelled.
When the night is pitch dark, and the light of the stars cannot be seen, we cannot take one safe step. We grope and labor under the fear of stumbling over something.
But if in the darkness we see the light of the dawn, a light which spreads every minute, increasing in clarity and light, then we feel joy; a joy completed when at length the sun fully shines.
So it was when Mary appeared in the darkness of death: she was the sweet aurora heralding the dawn of God, a promise of the Divine Sun which will soon appear to cast its rays on the whole earth.
As the light of dawn rises in the East, the animals of the forest hide themselves in their dens while the nocturnal birds flee away. Instead, the innocent little birds of the air chirp and sing, the flowers open and give forth their perfume, while all things are clad in gorgeous colors. So it was when Mary was born. The devils flee, the Angels sing, virtues flourish, and the whole world is filled with light and joy. How beautiful and magnificent was the morning of our Redemption!
Your own joy. And who, on realizing what has happened in the world, does not share this joy? Does not the heart of every man rejoice? Do you not feel it also within yourself? Do you not see that the darkness of death and sin which once flooded your heart has gone away and that now there is a shining light which enlightens and guides you to your eternal destiny? That light which comes to you from Mary is Christ. She is the light of your life.
Imagine the arid desert without flowers, without plants, without life. But as soon as it is irrigated with fresh water, there will be palm trees bearing green branches and fruit.
A barren vine may yield no fruit; but graft a healthy branch on to it, and it will produce rich sweet grapes. That is the picture of your soul: an arid desert, a barren vine. If your vine bears fruit, it is because Christ has, by means of Mary, been grafted into you. If your soul is not barren, it is because our Blessed Lady has planted in your heart the sweet oasis of Jesus.
Remember the little cloud of Elias, a symbol of Mary, that brought fertility to a dry land. In the same way Mary has rendered the earth fertile: through her there have sprung up lilies of virginity, roses of love. The same will happen in your heart, but only with her and through her. Do not forget that without her, there is but barren land, dry desert, a withered branch. Should you not rejoice at the Nativity of Our Lady, a Nativity so glorious and fruitful for your soul?
Jesus is Always Preceded by Mary. Lastly, this birth reminds us of the most sweet truth, that Mary goes always in front of Jesus. God ordained that, in nature, the sun should not rise all of a sudden, but should be preceded by the clarity of the dawn. He has made the same arrangement in the order of grace. He disposed that the Word made flesh should appear in the world only after having been heralded by the splendid dawn of this Maiden, Queen of the Angels, conceived without stain. God has so arranged that the Sun of Justice, Our Lord Jesus Christ, should not rise and shine in our souls without them having been previously visited by the Mother of All Grace. He has decided that His kingdom should not be established in this world unless there be first set in it the throne of Mary. Mary is, therefore, the dawn of Jesus. Study Mary deeply, love her filially in order to know and love Jesus. Examine yourself on this most important point. See whether you do everything with Mary and through Mary in order to please Jesus. Imitate Mary, empty your soul of yourself and fill it with her, and thus be filled with that Divine life which Jesus wishes to bring to your soul.
A Brief History of the Miraculous Image of Maria Bambina
The Miraculous Image of Maria Bambina was made before 1730 by a Franciscan nun, who afterwards entrusted the image to others, so that during the ensuing years she eventually came into the care of the Sisters of Charity at Lovere, Italy. In 1866 these Sisters of Charity were requested to take over the management of the Hospital of Ciceri in Milan. In 1876 the waxen image was carried to their Mother House at Via Santa Sofia 13, where the Bambina has remained ever since. Throughout this period, the statue was exposed for veneration only on the 8th of September, the Feast of Mary's Nativity, but in 1884 Maria Bambina manifested her desire to reward those who honored her by their devotion to her Holy Infancy. One of the Sisters, Sr. Josephine Woinovich, due to paralysis in her arms and feet, was bedridden and in unbearable pain. On the 8th of September, Our Lady's Nativity, she begged Mother Superior to bring Maria Bambina and to leave the image near her overnight. The following morning the Mother Superior was inspired to take the image, so old, worn, and grayish colored, to the other sick Sisters in the infirmary so that they could venerate and kiss her. In the infirmary was a fervent Novice, Guila Macario, who was unable to move because of her serious illness, but who, overcome by her ardent faith, took the Maria Bambina into her arms and pleaded with her in tender and loving words for the grace of her recovery, if such was according to God's Holy Will. She was instantaneously cured, for such faith and confidence moves mountains! And at the very same time, the miraculous image itself underwent an amazing transformation from its former dull gray color to the warm flesh hues it has today, as can be seen, where she is enshrined in the Sanctuary of the Mother House in Milan. Many graces and miracles are attributed to the beautiful devotion to Maria Bambina, among them the recovery of Sister Josephine Woinovich herself. For this reason, the Sisters of Charity became commonly known as the Sisters of Maria Bambina.
Visit also: www.marienfried.com