September 8 marks the feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God. This feast is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. In the Roman Catholic Liturgy this feast has its particular importance since, according to the Aposotlic Exhortation written by Pope Paul VI on "The Right Ordering and Development Of Devotion To the Blessed Virgin Mary", it is one of "those celebrations that commemorate salvific events in which the Blessed Virgin was closely associated with her Son" (Marialis Cultus, 7).

In his famous discourse on the Nativity of the Mother of God, Saint Andrew of Crete says that the whole creation is jubilant on this special day because the birth of Mary is a joyful prelude to the gift of humanity's salvation."This is the highest, all-embracing benefit that Christ has bestowed on us. This is the revelation of the mystery, this is the emptying out of the divine nature, the union of God and man, and the deification of the manhood that was assumed.

"This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the fore-ordained union of the word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages."

Mary, the Mother of God is a priceless gift given to us from divine providence. She is not only the Mother of God but also our merciful Mother. On her birthday may our hearts be inflamed with that filial love that we should reserve for her. May the following heartening and zealous advice coming from the heart of the Father and Doctor of the Church, St Bernard of Clairvaux, help us to deepen our filial relationship with her:

"In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart.

"And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favour, you shall reach the goal".

Happy birthday Mother Mary, Mother of God and, most of all, our most precious Mother!

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