|Giotto - Scrovegni The Birth of the Virgin|
MARY'S LIFE ON EARTH
While I was yet a little one
I pleased the Lord of Grace ;
And in His holy sanctuary
He granted me a place.
There, sheltered by His tender care,
And by His love inspired,
I strove in all things to fulfil
Whatever He desired.
I wholly gave myself to Him,
To be for ever His ;
I meditated on His Law
And ancient Promises;
And oft at my embroidery,
Musing upon the Maid Of whom Messias should be born-
Thus in my heart I prayed :
"Permit me, Lord, one day to see
That Virgin ever dear,
Predestinated in the Courts
Of Sion to appear.
Oh, blest estate, if but I might
Among her handmaids be
Our Lady's Birth
But such a favour, O my God,
Is far too high for me."
Thus unto God I poured my prayer,
And He that prayer fulfilled,
Not as my poverty had hoped,
But as His bounty willed.
Erewhile, a trembling child of dust,
Now, robed in heavenly rays,
I reign the Mother of my God
Through sempiternal days :
To me the nations of the world
Their grateful tribute bring ;
To me the powers of darkness bend ;
To me the Angels sing !
AT the birth of Mary of Nazareth the Angels of God Our Lady's sang in jubilee. Redemption was nigh at Birth. hand for the children of men, long lost and gone astray, but entrusted still to the Angels' keeping.
The holy Angels sang rejoicing. Their Queen—the Maiden chosen from Eternity that she might minister to the Human Nature of their Lord and King—was upon the earth. Soon, they will surround His Cradle too, heralding the good tidings of Salvation, adoring Mary's Son.
" Of none of the Angels layeth He hold at any time, but of the seed of Abraham He layeth hold. And when He bringeth His First-begotten into the world He saith: Let all the Angels of God adore Him." (1 Heb. ii. 16; i. 6.)
In these words we may find the supreme cause of joy both for Angels and for men; the beginning of this joy was the Nativity of our Blessed Lady.
According to the Little Bollandists, the Holy Mother of God was born amidst the mountains of Judaea; others think that her birth took place at Nazareth, her future home, not far from Mount Carmel. By far the most probable opinion, how ever, is that of St. John Damascene, who spent a great deal of his life in the Laura (or Monastery) of St. Saba, not many hours' distant from the Holy City, and is an excellent witness to the Christian traditions of Jerusalem. He tells us that the Holy Virgin saw the light in her father's house at " the Probatica" in Jerusalem. 1 This Probatica is the Pool of which we read in the Gospel, where our Lord healed the paralytic. 2
There is still in existence a grotto that probably formed a part of the house in which our Lady was born. On its site was built in the fourth or fifth century a Byzantine Basilica, where St. John Damascene preached two sermons on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. Discoveries made as recently as 1914 have proved that the atrium of this Basilica, called in the days of St. John Damascene the Church of our Lady's Nativity, stood over the portico leading to the Probatica. The ancient Basilica was several times destroyed and several times restored. The present church, built, like its predecessor, upon the traditional site of our Lady's birth, is dedicated to her holy mother, and is served by the " White Fathers," a congregation of priests founded by the late Cardinal Lavigerie. Their house, adjoining the church, is called " the House of the Probatica," in consequence of its vicinity to the Gospel well, from which it is only separated by the width of a street.
Our Lady's Parents.
Our Lady's father was named Heli or Joachim 3 — meaning Expectation, her mother Hannah or Anne, which signifies Grace. Gracious, assuredly, in the eyes of God was she whose daughter is the Ever-Blessed Virgin, hailed by the Angel as herself " Full of grace"—the destined Mother of God.
Our Lady's Ancestry
An ancient tradition tells us that Joachim and Anne had long been childless and that their only child was given to them in answer to fervent, long' continued prayer. St. Justin, who was born in Samaria A.D. 100, and was well acquainted with the traditions of Palestine, writes that our Lady was of royal stock, descending in a direct line of ancestry from King David, whilst St. Augustine informs us that: " One of David's sons, according to custom, married a wife from the sacerdotal line. Hence Mary belonged to both tribes and had her descent both in the royal and sacerdotal lines." 4
Our Lady's Name.
It was usual amongst the Jews to name their children the ninth day after birth, in the midst of the assembled family. St. Joachim bestowed upon his daughter the name of Miriam— a name of Egyptian origin—in Greek and Latin Maria, which signifies both Sovereign Lady or Princess, and Sea of Sorrows. It, as we shall see, has received various other interpretations.
1 De Fide Orthodoxa, iv. 15.
2 The Probatica was named from the Greek (meaning sheep) —probably because it was in this well, situated very near the Temple, that the sheep were washed before being offered in the sacrifices. It is translated in the A.V. (John v. 2) " by the sheep market," a most unlikely rendering. The R.V. has " by the sheep gate." The Douay version wisely leaves it untranslated.
3 The Arabs know St. Joachim by the name of Imram or Amram- the father of another Mary, the sister of Moses (see Koran, Sura III. "The Family of Imram"). On this subject Mr. Rodwell writes (the Koran, translated from the Arabic, in Everyman's Library, by Rev. J. M. Rodwell, p. 385) : " It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Muhammed is guilty of confounding Miriam with the Virgin Mary. On the other hand is the difficulty of conceiving that, as the sequence of time and fact is observed [in the Koran] with tolerable accuracy in regard to the main features of Jewish and Christian history, he should have fallen into so considerable an error ... as to have overlooked the discrepancy in their respective dates. But it is possible that Muhammad believed that, as some Muslim writers assert, Miriam's soul and body were miraculously preserved till the time of Jesus, to become Mary His Mother." It is very curious to find that Miriam was mystically identified with Mary by St. Jerome (Ep. ad Eustoch. Cf. P- 341)
4 De diversis quaest., Lib. I. Ixi. 2.