08 September 2008

Commemoration of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin

....which our Synod at present seems to be ignoring! Nevertheless, if you check out the 1731 Lutheran Almanac that the good deacon has posted on the Net (www.lexorandi.org then go to Calendars), you'll see September 8th commemorating this day. But how long into Lutheranism did this day persist? Well, if I pull out my handy-dandy Die Bibel order die ganze Heilige Schrift Alten und Neues Testaments which CPH published into the 20th century, and look in the back where it gives assigned lectionary readings, we discover:

Am Tage der Geburt MariƤ - on the Day of the Birth of Mary.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, we note that our Lutheran fathers included as the Epistle reading on said day:

Sirach 24:24-30.

When they said "ganze," they were not joking!

The Gospel for the day is the geneology of our Lord from St. Matthew: Matthew 1:1-16.

Where, oh, where did the observance of Mary's Birthday go - not merely as a commemoration, but as a celebration with Eucharistic propers?

Sadly, you won't find it in Treasury of Daily Prayer because of the (laudable) commitment to completely reflect the LSB appointed propers and rubrics. BUT you will find it in The Brotherhood Prayer Book, where in addition to the readings given above, the following collect is supplied:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech Thee, unto Thy servants the gift of Thy heavenly grace that as the child-bearing of the blessed virgin Mary was the beginning of salvation, so the joyful festival of her nativity may bring us an increase of peace; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord...

Here's the lovely hymn Quem terra, pontus sidera by Fortunatus, sung by Pr. Mayes. Fitting for this day:



Chris said...

We wouldn't leave out commemorations like that! It's just that she's a woman, so she doesn't get a day for her birth and death like John the Baptist :-D. Ladies...I jest!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Because of my teaching schedule, we transferred the feast to Sunday. The troparion for the day said: "Thy nativity, O Theotokos, hath proclaimed joy to the whole universe; for from thee did shine forth the Sun of justice, Christ our God, annulling the curse, and bestowing the blessing, abolishing death and granting us life everlasting."

Truly a joy-filled day! And next Sunday is the Exaltation of the Precious and Life-giving Cross!

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory

Unknown said...

Fr. Weedon,

Thanks for the post. I was wondering why and how somehow the commemoration of the birth of the Blessed Virgin --whom God chose to help bring about our salvation-- had fallen away.

A few questions:

1) Should the German include oder instead of order?

2) Isn't Sirach part of the Old Testament readings instead of the Epistle?


P.S. Thanks for the link to the hymn sung by Fr. Mayes. It is delightful.

Joshua said...

Fr Gregory,

Your comment is very interesting, because in the Roman Breviary the Magnificat Antiphon for the feast of the Nativity is an exact translation of the troparion you quote:

Nativitas tua, Dei Genetrix Virgo, gaudium annuntiavit universo mundo: ex te enim ortus est sol justitiƦ, Christus Deus noster: qui solvens maledictionem, dedit benedictionem, et confundens mortem, donavit nobis vitam sempiternam.

William Weedon said...


Glad to hear from you and hope you are weathering these storms okay!

Yes, ODER. Typo!

The Western Rite occasionally uses various readings from the Old Testament as Epistle readings. Christmas had an "epistle" reading from Isaiah! It doesn't happen often, but historically it did occur.

Sean said...

So, I spent about 5 minutes rifling through my bible trying to find Sirach.... Turns out it was Ecclesiasticus. :P I found it before Vespers though.

The Gospel's geneology would be incredible for preaching, and you'd even make Scaer happy too!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

With the Old Testament "Epistles" - I know TLH only had two readings - Epistle and Gospel. Does an OT Epistle hearken back to a day when there were only 2 assigned readings instead of 3? I don't know - simply asking.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Brown,

Yup! It's from the days (and there were tons of them) when the Western Church had but two readings in the Mass. We've grow a generation now that doesn't remember the two readings and takes the three for granted. That's a good thing over all, I believe, and actually harkens back to the oldest strata of the Church's liturgical life. But historically we did have some of those OT readings as "epistles."

William Weedon said...

Robb and Josh,

I think Ben Johnson (western orthodoxy blog) has commented before on some of these striking borrowings from East to West or West to East. If I recall correctly it was about a year ago he ran a series on that. The Lutheran liturgies I've seen did not retain that particular antiphon, which is a pity for it confesses the joys of the Gospel quite beautifully.

We'll be celebrating Holy Cross ourselves this Sunday. "For behold, by the wood of Your Cross joy has come into all the world!"

Brian P Westgate said...

I noticed that the Epistle in the BPB is slightly longer on each end than what you listed, Fr. Weedon.
Holy Cross will be celebrated at Zion Detroit this Sunday, as will St. Matthew the following Sunday.

Anonymous said...

Here's a lovely thought from Pope Benedict XVI concerning the Birth of Mary:

"her soul was the space from which God was able to gain access into humanity."

and from the Byzantine liturgy:

"Today God welcomes on earth the holy throne which he had prepared for himself. He who established the heavens in wisdom has fashioned a living heaven."

I'll never forget a conversation I had with a Protestant about Mary's role in the Incarnation. The lady said "She was simply the vessel and God knew she would consent to bear His Son."

I said, "Yes, but until she was asked, Mary didn't know!"

The universe held its breath until she freely gave her fiat.

Unknown said...

Fr. Weedon,

Thanks for the answer.

Is there any particular reason why an OT passage would be read as the epistle? Is it , like at Christmas, a strong or very salient Messianic component?

Glad to hear from you and hope you are weathering these storms okay!

Thanks for asking. This corner of the region has been fortunate so far. At most some flash floods and street flooding. Those not too far to our west (like Haiti and the Dominican Republic) have unfortunately not been spared as much.


Past Elder said...

The Nativity of the BVM is located on 8 September because that is nine months from 8 December, the feast of her (immaculate) conception.

I suspect the one has been left out of the LSB calendar for the same reason as the other -- controversy around proper devotion to her. The LSB seems to combine Marian observance on 15 August as her feast, though traditionally this, while indeed a Marian feast, centres on her assumption/dormition.

Sirach is of course Ecclesiasticus. The former was, before the Revolution, er, Vatican II, more commonly used, the latter being derived from its nickname, liber ecclesiasticus, or church book, reflecting its extensive use in particularly moral catechesis, our Lutheran fathers being consistent with both.

Speaking of before the Revolution, two readings is indeed the norm until then, reflecting the torah/haftorah of the synagogue lectionary. As a Gospel reading replaced the Torah reading, so an Epistle reading replaced the haftorah from the Prophets. And in both, while a Torah passage is always the Torah passage and a Gospel passage is always the Gospel passage, the haftorah, or related reading, is not always an Epistle or Prophet, an OT reading may be used as the Christian haftorah as the Writings once in a while turn up as the haftorah.

There was, a couple of millenia ago, a three-reading synagogue lectionary too, Law, Prophets, then Writings, and perhaps that was the model for the revolutionaries' Gospel, Epistle, OT, and perhaps its relative short-liveness in favour of the traditional may be the model at Vatican III or IV, after which we can follow suit as we have with Vatican II For Lutherans.

Interesting indeed our Fathers' use of the "apocrypha" in view of contemporary Lutheranism. Consider too that this is not simply unexorcised Romanism -- the reading in the Roman Rite for this day is not Sirach, but Proverbs 8:22-35, which is also the "epistle" reading for 8 December, the Immaculate Conception.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Fr. Weedon, although I have not mentioned Loehe's calendar by name, he also included the Nativity of the BVM in his 1868 calendar. My annual Ordo Calendar includes this and other feast days from the 1731 almanac, Loehe's 1863 calendar, and other western sources.

Re. "How long did this day persist?": Luther recognized four Marian feasts - Annunciation, Visitation, Assumption and Nativity. The first two were "continued" by him; but he indicated that the last two should be "allowed to continue for the time being." Loehe kept this feast at least until 1863.

I am inclined to think that the American Melting Pot and the desire to conform to the American Protestant template, as well as pressure to use English in place of German, these traditional, old country celebrations were forgotten. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the Apocryphal Books ceased to be included in non-Catholic Bibles when English replaced German among American Germans.

The collect provided in the Brotherhood Prayer Book is that of the Common II of the BMV (Anglican Missal), wherein the feast being celebrated is inserted at the appropriate place.