THE BIRTH OF MARY

It was in the first half of the Fifth Century that September 8th was fixed as the commemoration of birth of Mary, locating this in Jerusalem.  In the Holy City the event is celebrated in a beautiful church which stands over a grotto where an ancients tradition marks the home of Mary’s parents, and therefore the place where the Virgin was born.  This tradition dates from the Second Century Proto Gospel of James, the oldest source deemed reliable by the Church as far as the birth and infancy of Mary is concerned. The Basilica of Saint Anne, formerly called St Anne’s at Bethesda, stands opposite the pool, of the same name, where Jesus healed a paralytic, and is one of the best examples of Crusader architecture in the Holy Land. The centuries-old history of this site is a complicated one.  In particular, during Moslem occupation, when it was turned into a theological school by Saladin, the Franciscans made every effort to obtain access to the crypt, so that they might pray there with pilgrims.  They could not enter the place without being let down from this window …In the Fifteenth Century, they obtained a firman which allowed them to celebrate Mass here on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, precisely on September 8th.Following the Crimean War, the church was sold to the French authorities who entrusted it to the White Fathers, who have been here since 1878.This year’s celebration was presided over by Father Stéphane Milovitch, Superior of the Franciscan friary of St Catherine in Bethlehem.Friar FRÉDÉRIC MANNSStudium Biblicum Francescanum, JerusalemWhen a child was born, everyone rejoiced.  When Mary was born, it was an incomparable joy for everyone because this marked the dawn of our salvation.  Mary was the new Eve in God’s plan.  Mary said, “Yes!”-  and this brought us all marvelous hope.  Thanks to Mary’s obedience, salvation came within the reach of all.

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