vol II date / index
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. St. Adrian, A. D. 306. St. Sidronius, A. D. 1067. Sts. Eusebius, Nestablus, Zeno, and Nestor, Martyrs under Julian. St. Corbinian, Bp. A. D. 730. St. Disen, or Disibode, A. D. 700. The Festival of the Holy Name of the Virgin Mary.
NATIVITY, B. V. M.
Nativity B. V. M.
This Roman catholic festival is in the church of England calendar and almanacs.
According to Butler and other Romish writers, "the title of the mother of God was confirmed to the virgin Mary" by the traditions of their church; and her nativity has been kept "above a thousand years," with matins, masses, homilies, collects, processions, and other forms and ceremonies ordained by that hierarchy. Some of its writers "attribute the institution of this feast to certain revelations which a religious contemplative had; who, they say, every year upon the 8th of September, heard most sweet music in heaven, with great rejoicings of the angels; and once asking one of them the cause, he answered him, that upon that day was celebrated in heaven the nativity of the mother of God; and upon the relation of this man, the church began to celebrate it on earth."*
Upon this it is observed and related by the late Mr. Brady thus:—
"A circumstance so important in its nature, and unfolded in so peculiar and miraculous a manner, was of course communicated to the then reigning pope, Servius; who immediately appointed a yearly feast 'to give an opportunity for the religious on earth to join with the angels in this great solemnity;' and there have been some contemplations dedicated for this occasion, wherein is unfolded, 'for the benefit of mankind,' certain circumstances of her 'sallies of love and union with God,' even before her pious mother St. Anne gave her being! It is somewhat extraordinary, that, notwithstanding the day of the nativity of the virgin was so clearly proved, after having been forgotten for many centuries, pope Servius, when he appointed the festival, did not also honour it with an octave or vigil; for it appears that pope Innocent IV. has the credit of the octave which he instituted A. D. 1244, and that pope Gregory XI. appointed the vigil A. D. 1370. At the death indeed of Gregory IX. it was in contemplation to observe an octave upon the following occasion: the cardinals had been long shut up without agreeing upon the appointment of a successor to the deceased pope, when some of these holy men made a vow to the virgin, that if through her merits they could come to a decision they would in future observe her octave; a vow which had an instantaneous effect, and caused Celestine to be elected to St. Peter's chair; though, as this nominal pope lived only eighteen days from his election, the vow was not fulfilled until Innocent IV. succeeded to that dignity. The long and uncourteous disregard, however, of the early church to the immaculate mother of our Lord, in respect to the day of her nativity, was amply compensated by other attentions, and there still remain many persons in catholic countries, in Spain and Italy in particular, who place a much greater reliance on the efficiency of the mediation of the virgin, than they do on that of our Lord himself; and if we are to credit the numerous authors who have made her divine powers their theme, and celebrated her extraordinary condescensions, our wonder and astonishment must be excited in a most eminent degree. Some of her courtesies are calculated for teaching a lesson of humility, which no doubt was the operating cause of her performing such offices, which in no other view appear of importance. At one time she descends from heaven to mend the gown of Thomas à Becket, which was ripped at the shoulder. Whilst the monks of Clervaux were at work, the virgin relieved their fatigue, by wiping the perspiration from their faces. That the important duties of an abbey should not be neglected, she for some time personally superintended them, whilst the abbess was absent with a monk who had seduced her from the path of virtue. She even descended from heaven to bleed a young man who prayed to her, and whose health required that operation. At the entreaty of a monk, who prayed to her for that purpose, she supplied his place when absent, and sung matins for him. And, we are solumnly assured, that when St. Allan was much indisposed, she rewarded him for his devotional attentions to her, by graciously giving him that nourishment which female parents are accustomed only to afford their offspring! To what depths of impious absurdity will not ignorance and credulity debase mankind!"* 
Legendary stories in honour of the virgin are numberless. For edifying reading on this particular festival, the "Golden Legend" relates, among others, the following:—
A bishop's vicar, by name Theophylus, on the death of his diocesan, was willed by the people to succeed him; but Theophylus refused, saying, he had rather be a vicar than a bishop. However, the new bishop displaced him from being vicar, whereupon Theophylus grieved, and falling into despair, consulted a Jew, who being a magician, summoned the devil to the help of Theophylus. The devil being duly acquainted with the state of affairs, wrote a bond with Theophylus's blood, whereby the said Theophylus was held and firmly bound to renounce the virgin, and the profession of christianity, and the same being by him duly sealed and delivered, as his act and deed, the devil was therewith content, and procured the bishop to re-establish Theophylus in his office. When Theophylus was a vicar again, he began to repent that he had given his bond, and prayed the virgin to relieve him from it. Wherefore she appeared to Theophylus in a vision, "and rebuked him of his felony, and commanded him to forsake the devil," and to confess himself in heart a christian man. This he accordingly did, and therefore the virgin obtained his pardon, and brought his bond from the devil, and laid it on his breast; and Theophylus became joyful, and related to the bishop and all the people what had befallen him, and they marvelled greatly, and gave praise to the virgin, and "three dayes after he rested in peas," and died in his vicarage, whereunto the devil had caused him to be presented.
At another time a widow, whose son had been taken prisoner, wept without comfort, and prayed to the virgin for his delivery, but he still remained prisoner; and at last, when she saw that her prayers availed not, she entered into a church where an image of the virgin was carved, and standing before the image, reminded the virgin of her importunities, and that she had not helped her; "and therefore," said she, "like as my son is taken from me, so shall I take away thy son, and keep him as a hostage for mine." Then she took away from the image the child that it held, "and shette it in her chest, and locked it fast ryght diligently, and was ryght joyfull that she had so good hostage for her sone." Wherefore, on the following night, the virgin liberated the widow's son, and desired him to go and tell his mother that, as he was released, she desired to have her own son back. This he did, and the widow, in great joy, "toke the chylde of the ymage, and came to the chirche, and delyvered it to our lady, sayenge, lady, I thanke you, for ye have delivered to me my son, and here I deliver to you yours."
One other story is of a thief who was always devout to the virgin. On a time he was taken and judged, and ordered to be hanged; but when he was hanged "the blyssed virgin Mary susteyned, and helde hym up, with her handes, thre dayes, that he dyed not." When they that caused him to be hanged, "found hym lyvying, and of glad chere," they supposed that "the corde had not been well strayned," and would have cut his throat with a sword; but "our blyssed lady" put her hands between his neck and the weapon, so that he could be neither killed nor hurt; and then they took him down "and let him go in the honour of the blyssed virgyn Marye;" and he went and "entred into a monastery, and was in the service of the moder of God as longe as he lyved."
Perhaps these three stories provided for the festival of the nativity of the blessed virgin Mary in papal times, may be deemed sufficient in our times.
Spain, as a catholic country, is profuse in adoration of the virgin. On her festivals a shrine is erected in the open street, decorated with flowers, and surrounded by a number of wax candles. A flight of stairs leads to an altar, where on is placed an image of the virgin mother, with an embroidered silk canopy above. On these stairs a priest takes his station, and preaches to the multitude, while other priests go round, at intervals, with a salver, to collect oblations from the devotees. To those who give liberally, the priest presents little engravings of the virgin, which are highly valued. An obliging correspondent, who communicates these particulars, (J. H. D. of Portsmouth,) says, "I have two of them, which I obtained on one of those occasions at Cadiz, in 1811, one of which I herewith send you." Of this consecrated print, the engraving at the head of the present article is a fac-simile.
Amellus. Aster Amellus.
Dedicated to St. Adrian.
Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:
1. Ribadeneira. [return]
2. Clavis Calendaria. [return]