Christian: East and West traditions in Mary’s Nativity

A view from nearby archaeological sites: Nearly 1,000 years old, the CHURCH OF ST. ANNE in the old city of Jerusalem now is part of the Christian pilgrimage route called the Via Dolorosa. Christian tradition holds that the church marks a grotto where Anne gave birth to Mary. The site has a long and complex history. For a while in the era of Saladin, the building was a Muslim seminary. By the mid 1800s, the ruins were given to the French government, which restored the church and gave it to an order of Catholic priests, the White Fathers. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: Bake a birthday cake for the Virgin Mary today, because Sept. 8 is the Nativity of Mary (Theotokos) in both Eastern and Western Christian Churches. This is one of only three birthdays recognized in the Christian calendar: Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist. (Wikipedia has details.)

According to Christian tradition, Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, were beyond childbearing age when an angel appeared to them and announced that they were parents-to-be. This same angel assured that their child’s name would be known throughout the world, and Anne immediately promised to offer her child to God as a gift. Today’s feast isn’t celebrated as grandly as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, but this is an ancient observance among Christians. It began many centuries before the current Church of St. Anne was built in Jerusalem.

Learn more about Eastern Christian perspectives from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

Or, want some Catholic ideas for family fun? If your family is looking for creative ways to celebrate Mary’s birthday, try baking a white layer or angel food cake for today’s saint, topped with white icing (for purity) and blue trim icing (for fidelity). Ten candles atop the cake represent the 10 “Hail Mary” prayers in a Rosary. If you’d rather stay away from sugar, try decorating a small statue of Mary with flowers; or, teach your children the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. (For more ideas, visit Women for Faith and Family.)

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