It is a challenge to write or even preach about this feast, simply because there is nothing in Scripture that speaks of the Virgin Mary’s birth. There is a source from that wonderful event in the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James that speaks of Mary’s parents and her birth. Perhaps a good approach to the feast is the use of art, specifically the artist that works with clay.
It is the most intimate form of art. A painter touches a canvas with a brush while a sculptor uses a hammer and chisel. But someone working clay uses his or her hands. There is a gentle touch that gradually gives form and shape to the clay. The artist is never rushed. The fingers and hands slowly and patiently create something beautiful.
While you think about it, does not that tell the story of every human being’s life? The fingerprints of parents, grandparents, relatives, among so many others, are evident in the way an individual thinks, acts, believes and views the world. All this takes place over years and is gently or forcefully reinforced in subtle and not so subtle ways.
And then there was Mary who was born into the family of Anna and Joachim. They were the people who molded the life of the woman who would play such a significant part in changing human history with the birth of her Son, Jesus the Christ. From her parents and others she heard the remarkable events of salvation history: God rescuing His people from the slavery of Egypt, and providing for them in a desert crossing leading them to the Promised Land. All the while, like the artist who works the clay, God was fashioning a Chosen People. He gave them every reason to trust and believe in Him. The touch of God would be evident in their lives by the way they honored Him through keeping the commandments and living with each other.
Mary heard these passages of Scripture. But even more so, she saw them alive in her parents and others. She treasured and pondered. Mary also allowed God’s touch on her heart and soul that led her to say yes to being the Mother of God. In spite of knowing so little of what her Son would do or the cost of her involvement in the Father’s plan of salvation, Mary said yes. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14).
The birth of this beautiful woman clothed with the sun can lead a believer to reflect on his or her life. In the past we did not have a choice of whom or what would mold and shape us for good or bad. But now, at this present moment, we have that choice: fear or faith, darkness or light, the Christ or sin. There are so many moments during a day that we face that choice. Like Mary, we can chose to be still and hear the words of God to the prophet Jeremiah, “I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope… (Jeremiah 29:11). All that became flesh in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who allowed her life to be touched and molded by the living God.
What about you?