It is an undoubted fact that if man and woman had continued in the state of original innocence wherein God had created them, woman would not have had to endure the pangs of childbirth, since it was in punishment of her sin that Divine Justice pronounced against her this decree: “In dolore paries“: (1) “Thou shalt bring forth in sorrow.”
Now the birth of our admirable Virgin not being sullied with the guilt of original sin, ought not to have carried with it the effects of this condemnation. The Holy Spirit compares her birth to the birth of a star, dissipating darkness and diffusing joy: “a star shall come forth out of Jacob” (2) And St. Ildephonsus declares emphatically that our incomparable Mary was not born as the other children of Adam: “Maria non sic est nata, sicut solent pueri et puellae nasci.” (3)
If the state of innocence would have exempted mothers from the pains they now suffer in childbirth, how much more ought the birth of a mother of God exempt from pain that privileged one who should be her mother. For this marvelous birth was to the human race a source of graces and blessings, far greater and more abundant than those destined for the state of innocence.
If God formed the first woman from Adam’s side without causing him any pain, is it difficult to believe that the birth of the second Eve, who was infinitely dearer and more precious in His eyes than the first, was without pain to her glorious mother, St. Ann?
The blessed Virgin declared to St. Bridget that her Mother was filled with a wonderful joy (4) at the miraculous and Immaculate Conception of her holy daughter Mary. It is then but reasonable to believe that St. Ann experienced a similar joy at her birth.
The sorrow which other mothers suffer in bringing forth their children is the consequence of sensuality and carnal concupiscence; for which reason the holy Fathers say that the Mother of the Savior was brought forth without pain, because she was conceived without pleasure. For sensuality had no part in the most pure conception of our holy Infant, as she made known to St. Bridget. (5)
Josephus in the ninth chapter of the second book of the Jewish Antiquities, relates that Jochabed, mother of Moses, suffered little or no pain at the birth of this great Prophet.
Thomas a Kempis, in the life of St. Lidwina, (6) says the same of her birth.
Anne, Duchess of Ustronia, received a similar grace through the prayers of St. Stanislaus Kostka, S. J., as is recounted in his life.
The Rev. Father John of Jesus Maria, discalced Carmelite, declares in one of his books on the glories of St. Teresa, that a woman near her confinement, having implored the succor of this Saint, gave birth to her infant without pain.
Now, if through the intercession of these Saints, God wrought such prodigies in mothers who have brought their children into the world in the state of sin, it is very easy to persuade oneself that the holy mother of the Queen of Saints was not less privileged, through the merits of her whom she conceived and brought forth in the fullness of grace: “In plenitudine sanctorum.” (7)
Holy Church sings on the day of Mary’s Nativity: “Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God, brought joy to the whole earth.” While the whole universe rejoiced when St. Ann brought forth this Divine Infant, would it be possible that the daughter and mother alone, of all, had no share in this universal rejoicing of which they were the source? or that it was for them a subject of pain and tears? For the mother perhaps it would have been only the sensible pain, experienced upon such an occasion, but the daughter, since this Infant had the use of reason, would have suffered much, seeing the pain she was occasioning a mother whom she loved above all we can imagine.
The holy Fathers, the oracles of the Church, tell us that God placed this admirable Virgin in the world to deliver us by her power from all evils, and bestow upon us all kinds of good. We cannot believe then, that Divine Bounty would have permitted this gentle Infant to be the cause of one of the severest physical sufferings that can be endured on earth to the person whom she most loved in the world, and to whom she was under greatest obligations.
No, my best of Mothers, although the children of Adam have caused you untold suffering and sorrow, nevertheless, you have never pained nor afflicted any one. On the contrary you have offered and sacrificed the precious blood and adorable life of your only and well-beloved Son even for those who have wounded Him with horrible cruelties. So great is your bounty towards all that your great pleasure is to do them good and your joy is to have them ask of you favors and graces.
O my Mother, all good and love-worthy, make me participate in your incomparable benignity, and obtain for me through your Son, that in imitation of you, I may never do nor say anything to afflict or sadden my neighbor, but, on the contrary, that my greatest contentment may be to do good to all according to my power, for the love of your Son and of you.
Three Very Singular Gifts Attending the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
We have still to consider three sorts of very rare and special graces attending the birth of the most holy Virgin.
First, the incomparable gifts that the most Holy Trinity made to her. Second, the inestimable gifts which she made to the most Holy Trinity. Third, the inconceivable gifts God has given us, in her and through her. Finally, we shall consider what we can do to honor her.
What are the infinitely precious gifts which the three Divine Persons made to our blessed Infant at the moment of her birth? They are the same gifts that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit bestowed upon her in her conception, but augmented almost to infinity. The Eternal Father, regarding her as His only and well beloved Daughter, constituted her heiress general of all His possessions, as well intrinsic as extrinsic to Himself, in nature, grace and glory. But specially He endowed her with five extraordinary favors.
Firstly, a communication in His divine Paternity, commencing to clothe her with that divine virtue whereby He formed His Son in His paternal bosom in order to dispose her to conceive Him in her virginal womb; consequently He gave her this Son to be her only Son, as he is only Son of the Father, and He gave her power to conceive this Son in her heart. Secondly, He confided to her all His other children, that she might be their mother, nurse and guardian, as she was to be mother, nurse and guardian of His Son Jesus. Thirdly, He communicated to her the paternal love He bore His eldest Son and all His other children. Fourthly, He communicated to her the name and quality He Himself bears as Father of mercy and God of all consolation, making her the Mother of mercy, Mother of the miserable, and Consoler of all the afflicted who have recourse to her. Fifthly, as power is attributed specially to the Father Almighty, He communicated also this quality in a special manner to the Blessed Virgin, giving her a power so general and prodigious that the holy Fathers speak of it as follows: “God has given you so great power,” says St. Anselm, “that there is nothing to which you cannot move Him.” Te sic Deus exaltavit, ut omnia secum possibilia esse donaverit.” (8)
“God, having rendered her Mother of His Son, He has given her a sovereign authority in heaven and earth,” says the learned and pious Eusebius of Emesa. (9)
“There is nothing capable of resisting your power,” says George, Archbishop of Nicomedia, “nothing which can oppose itself to your strength; all things obey you, all submit to your empire; all things are subservient to the power God has given you.” (10)
These are the gifts the Eternal Father bestowed upon our divine Infant. But let us pass further.
The Father and the Son gave her Their Divine Spirit and Their Amiable Heart, to be her spirit and her heart.
The Son of God gave her four great gifts. Firstly, He communicated to her His infinite Wisdom in a manner truly eminent. Secondly, He communicated to her His Divine Filiation in so excellent a manner, as to constitute her only Daughter of the Father, as He is only Son. Thirdly, He gave Himself to her in quality of Son, and bestowed upon her the authority and power of a Mother. Fourthly, in submitting Himself to her authority, He added thereto all things appertaining to Him. “The Son of Mary,” says St. John Damascene, “has subjected all created things to His Mother’s empire: Filius Matri res omnes conditas in servitutem addixit.” (11) “Jesus is sovereign Lord,” says a holy Abbot, (12) “Mary is sovereign Lady of all creatures. Whosoever bends the knee before the Son, must bend the knee also before the Mother.”
The Holy Spirit in like manner bestowed three great gifts. Firstly, He gave Himself in quality of Spouse. Secondly, He gave her not only part of His goods as dowry, but shared with her an entire community of goods. He gave her all unreservedly, placing in her hands the key of His treasure house, with full power to enrich her children therefrom and distribute His gifts “to whom she wills,” says St. Bernard, “when she wills and in the manner she wills.” (13) Thirdly, as the Father communicated His Power, the Son His Wisdom, so the Holy Spirit rendered her a participant, in a very high degree, of His incomparable bounty. This is why she has all power to aid and succor those who invoke her, and she is indefatigable in finding out ways and means to cooperate in man’s salvation, being filled with bounty and sweetness for those who address themselves to her with humility and confidence. “Mary is never wanting in power,” says St. Bernard, “because she is Mother of the Almighty; nor in skill, for she is Mother of Wisdom; nor in goodness, for she is Mother of mercy.” (14)
These gifts which the three Eternal Persons made to the Blessed Virgin in her birth were not fully emphasized in her at that time; nevertheless she possessed them radically, so to say, and they truly appertained to her in the same manner that the precious stones, the beautiful furnishings, the rich domains of a great king belong to the infant princess by right of birth, and in very truth are hers, although as yet she cannot enjoy their perfect use.
Is it not true that this Divine Princess is born to be the only daughter of the Eternal Father, the Mother of the Son and the Spouse of the Holy Spirit? to be Queen of heaven and earth? and that for this alone was she born? Consequently, although all these gifts are given her by the royal munificence of the Sovereign Monarch of the universe, it is nevertheless true that they belong to her by right of birth, as appendages and ornaments of qualities so noble and elevated as are those just enumerated.
Let us see now the rare and extraordinary gifts this holy Infant made to God at the moment of her birth. To say much in a few words, she gave to God all she had received from His divine liberality. She gave to Him more than had ever been offered up to this moment, she gave Him something incomparably more agreeable to Him than had ever been given in heaven or earth from the world’s creation. Is it not true that this precious Infant was worth more than ten million worlds? Now, she gave herself entirely to God at the instant of her birth, and that with more love and perfection than at the moment of her conception. She gave her body, her soul, her heart, her life, her mind, all that she was, all that she should be eternally.
Would you know what Divine Bounty gave us on the birthday of our divine Mother?
Place before your eyes all the graces and gifts God made to this sacred Virgin upon her entrance into the world, and know that it was to you He made all these same gifts, because they were given to her that she might be rendered worthy to give you a Savior and to cooperate with Him in your salvation. They were further given to render her powerful, wise and good enough to fill the office of Queen, Advocate and Protectress of all mankind.
The next gift God made to us upon the birthday of our precious Infant ought to fill us with unspeakable joy. He gave us this most amiable Infant in quality of Mother, the most honorable and advantageous title she could bear in our regard, for it filled her heart with a maternal love unparalleled, the effects of which we shall behold in due time.
The third gift bestowed upon us by divine liberality on our Mother’s birthday, may be thus summed up: Represent to yourself all the goods, temporal and eternal, which have proceeded from the mystery of the Incarnation, and know that they were given us at the moment of the birth of her who was their source, since God gave Himself to her at this happy moment. St. John Damascene thus speaks: “You are, O sacred Virgin, the eternal fountain of true light, you are the ineffable treasure of immortal life; through you do we receive all blessings.” (15)
“She is the cause of all the good there is in the world,” says Albert the Great. “Causa totius boni.” (16) “Radix omnium bonorum,” says Chrysippus, priest of Jerusalem, “the root of all good.” (17)
“It is by her, and in her, and through her,” says the Wise Idiot, “that the world possesses and will possess all good from God”: “Per ipsam, et in ipsa, et ab ipsa habet mundus, et habiturus est omne bonum.” (18)
What then should we not tender to Mary? Here is the gift her true children should offer her.
It is our Queen and our Mother who enters into the world. Let us prostrate ourselves at her feet, offer her our homage and address her thus:
O divine Infant, prostrate at your sacred feet, with all possible humility and devotion, I salute you and honor you as my Queen and my Mother. I render infinite thanks to God for having given you to me in this quality, and for all the favors He conferred on you in your birth. I thank Him also that inasmuch as He gave you all things, He gave me to you.
O how heartily I ratify this donation! And in union with the love wherewith the Son of God, my Savior, gave Himself to you with all that appertains to Him, I also give you my body, my heart, my soul, my life, with all that I have or am able to do; all that I am or shall ever be; protesting, that I wish neither in time nor eternity to live nor act, nor speak, nor think, nor suffer but for your Son’s glory and your honor. Offer me to Him, I conjure you, and implore Him to use the all powerful arm of His bounty to destroy in me all that is displeasing to Him, and to establish in me perfectly and forever the absolute reign of the divine love of Jesus and Mary.
I will conclude… by relating this remarkable incident: St. Mechtilde asked the most holy Virgin how best she could please her on the feast of her Nativity. This holy Mother recommended her to recite in honor of her birth as many Hail Marys as she had passed days in the womb of her mother, St. Ann. (19) And I find in the books of St. Gertrude, (20) sister of St. Mechtilde, who lived in the same monastery with her, that the most sacred Virgin assured her that those who would practice this devotion, would in heaven participate in a special manner in all the joys she had had in this world or should forever have in the next, on account of all the virtues to the practice of which the most Holy Trinity had disposed her ever more and more during the time she passed in the womb of her holy Mother. If then you desire to do something pleasing to the divine Mother, remember to recite every day during the octave of her Nativity, thirty-five Ave Marias in honor of the number of days she passed in the womb of her blessed Mother. Say them in honor of the holy occupations of her pure soul during that time, thank her for all the glory she rendered to God, and ask her to associate you with her in all the honor and praise which she gave the Divine Majesty during those nine months, in order to repair, by these means, the dishonor you occasioned Him, by the condition of original sin in which you were before your birth. Add at the end of each decade, one Pater, to thank the most Holy Trinity, for all the grace bestowed upon this divine Infant, and, through her, upon St. Ann, St. Joachim and the whole world.
The preceding excerpt is taken from St. John Eudes, The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God, First Part, Chapters 15-16, and edited by the Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary, at www.heartsofjesusandmary.org. The Order of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Jesus and Mary is a contemplative community of lay and religious dedicated to serving the Hearts of Jesus and Mary through Eucharistic Adoration, contemplation, and corporal works of mercy.
(1) Gen. 3:16.
(2) Num. 24:17.
(3) Serm. De Nat. Virg.
(4) “Tanta Matri meae advenit laetitia, ut impossibile esset dictum.” Revel., lib. 1, cap. 9.
(5) “Voluptas in eis mortua erat.” Ibid.
(6) Par. 1, cap. 1. Father Eudes cites this and the preceding fact after de Vega, Theol. Mar., n. 837. Father Lepicier cites also some of the facts related here by Father Eudes. Here are his words: “Nullum dolorem B. Virginis nativitas attulit sanctae Annae: non decebat enim ut nativitas illa quae toti mundo afferebat gaudium, sanctae Annae afferet dolorem, ita quod in hoc casu dici debeat fuisse derogatum poenae a Deo latae: In dolore paries filios. Quod confirmatur ex S. Bernardi regula: Quidquid aliis, licet paucissimis, est concessum non est credendum gloriosae Virgini fuisse negatum. Atqui plurium sanctorum matribus partum sine dolore concessum fuisse historia testatur; ut matri sanctae Theresiae, sanctae Lidwinae, nec non sancti Stanislai Kostka. Ergo multo magis Deiparae matri hoc fuisse concessum credendum est.” Tract, de B. V. Maria, p. 2, c. 2, a. 1., n. 11.
(7) Ecclus. 24:16.
(8) De Exc. Virg., cap. 12.
(9) Homil. In fer 6 IV. Temp. Adv. It is now understood that the homilies attributed to Eusebius d’Emese belong to St. Brunon or Bruno, Bishop of Segni, who lived in the reign of Pascal III, about 1100.
(10) “Nihil tuae resistit potentiae, nihil repugnat tuis viribus. Omnia cedunt tuo jussui, omnis tuo obediunt imperio, omnia tuae potestati serviunt.” Orat. de obl. Virg. In templo.
(11) Orat. 2 de Ass.
(12) “Christus Dominus; Maria Domina. Constituta quippe est super omnem creaturam, et quicumque Filio curvat genu, Matri quoque pronus supplicat.” Arnoldus Carnot. De Laud. Virg.
(13) Sup. Salve.
(14) We have not found in the works of St. Bernard, the exact words corresponding to the above, but they resume the ideas he expresses in his beautiful sermons upon the most holy Virgin.
(15) “Tu fons veri luminis, et inexhaustus ipsiusmet vitae thesaurus, uberrimaque benedictionis scaturigo quae cuncta nobis bona conciliasti.” Orat. 1, de Dorm. Virgin.
(16) Super Missus est.
(17) Sermo de S. Maria.
(18) In Prol. Com. B. V.
(19) “Lege mihi tot Ave Maria quot dies fui in utero matris meae.” Lib. spec, gratiae, par. 1, cap. 29.
(20) Legatus divinae pietatis, lib. 4, cap. 12, and cap. 54. See the texts and the practice of this devotion in the Manual, tome 3, des oeuvres de Pere Eudes, pp. 402 and 324.