March 28, 2019
What are the Church feasts in which Mary, mother of Jesus is involved?
Mariology (the study of Mary, the mother of Jesus, Theotokos, God-bearer) has traditionally been the special purview of Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox. These several traditions within Christianity have such a high regard for The Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM), that whole industries of art, portraiture and sculpture, poetry, music, and more have developed to express wonder in Mary's place in salvation history.
This past Monday, March 25, there was a major Feast Day (A day whose celebration supersedes whatever other liturgical designation is happening, except for Principal Feasts or Sundays) which involved Mary—The Feast of the Annunciation. Because its observance is more important than Lent, we read the lectionary and collect for that feast day, an unusual occurrence in the solemnity of Lent. Technically, it is a major Feast of Our Lord, because it is about announcing of his conception, but clearly, that announcement was made to the BVM.
The Feast of the Annunciation, you might realize, as did one of the fellow worshippers on Monday morning, is exactly nine months from December 25, the Feast of the Nativity. And, no, the Church Fathers were not scientists nor physicians who dealt with an average gestation period of 40 weeks (somewhat closer to ten months). This observance has been celebrated since either the 4th or 5th century, therefore it is one of the earlier liturgical witnesses outside of Easter, Lent, and Epiphany, sorry, although they develop at about the same time, Christmas does not gain its gravitas and special character that makes it observably co-equal with Easter, until later.
The major Marian Feast days are:
- The Purification of Blessed Virgin Mary (February 20), aka, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Mary takes Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after giving birth to complete the Jewish rites of purification in order to reenter full participation in the Jewish community.
- The Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8), another nine months tradition, after Mary's conception, see below. The tradition of her father being Joachim and her mother Anne comes from a non-Canonical Gospel.
- The Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8). According to the Roman Catholic Church and committed to the teachings of that part of the church in 1854. A feast of the Mary's conception was part of the Syrian church as early as the 4th Century.
Mary is a prominent figure in the life of Jesus. The actual Biblical material on her is limited. But her agreement to participate in the salvation history by agreeing to work with God in bearing Jesus allows her a profound and important place in our liturgy and piety.