Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mary Moments: the Birthday Edition

This month, with our Mary Moments carnival, we're celebrating the birthday of Mary, the Blessed Mother. We're a bit late with it - the Church calendar has September 8 as the official observance. I'm pretty sure, though, that Mary won't mind. (In fact, if she's my mom, she's going to be delighted that we remembered!) We're going to keep things simple - no artwork this month. It's not a diss to our Mother; it's a way of letting the feast speak for itself.

This birthday is special for who it honors, but also for the fact that, in the Church calendar, there is only one other saint whose birthday is celebrated (John the Baptist on June 24). We don't know much about the Blessed Mother's birth - we don't find anything about her young life or her parents in Scripture - but we do know that it was miraculous, because she was conceived without sin. She had to be, you see, because she was going to be the Mother of God! (But, though God had intended her to be the Mother of His Son, she still had to say yes.)

So put on your party hat, and let's pause for a prayer before we kick off our birthday celebration.

Thy birth, O Virgin Mother of God,
heralded joy to all the world.
For from thou hast risen the Sun of justice,
Christ our God.

Destroying the curse, He gave blessing;
and damning death, He bestowed on us
life everlasting.

Blessed art thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
For from thou hast risen of Sun of justice,
Christ our God.
From Morning Prayer in the Divine Office

Celebrating with Food
No birthday celebration would be complete without food. In our families, birthday celebrations include cake and ice cream, but often there's a meal that brings us all together. In our family, someone hosts it and makes up a terrific spread that rivals any holiday.

I'm a big fan of these gatherings. The family sits around the house and we visit and we laugh. The kids get excited and the adults can't help but catch that excitement. There's something so intimate about eating together, as a family - extended or nuclear - and it gives us a small glimpse of the great Wedding Feast of Heaven.

Imagine, if you would, sitting around a table with the Blessed Mother and your other Christian brothers and sisters. What would be on the table - decorations, place mats, napkins, dishes? What would you be drinking? What would you be eating?

Heidi would have a treat that will make your mouth water, pavlova. It sounds like just the thing for a heavenly birthday party!

While we're eating sweets, let's try the blueberry cheesecake that Jessica made. She says, "The all white cheesecake (white and angel food cakes are other excellent options) symbolizes Mary's purity, and the blueberry topping is is symbolic of her blue mantle. You can top the cake with a small statue of Mary and surround it with a circle of 10 candles, representing one decade of the rosary." She also shares pictures and a description of what she and her children did to celebrate.

I made grape jelly recently, and it was as I was sweating and juggling the kids and finding odd times to have silence that I realized that, in my world, Mary and I would sit down for coffee and jelly bread.

Celebrating by Giving
Birthdays often mean giving gifts, and, for me, they often mean receiving gifts I would have never thought to ask for. Gifts can be a heart-felt expression of love, a way of saying what you just can't put into words.

What would you give the Blessed Mother on her birthday? How would you wrap it? Can you see her expression when she opens it? Do you hear her graciously thanking you, see her face lighting up when she sees it? And how about that hug she gives you, whispering "I love you!" in your ear? (That's the best part, don't you think?)

Long-Skirts wrote a special poem for Mary on this special birthday, "Mary of the Morn." She wrote to me, in her submission, "This is what I give to her, Mother of Our Lord because as a Roman Catholic everything is for Jesus through Mary!" She shared another poem with us, which I think will make Mary smile, "It's a Good Catholic Mother I Am." Last, but not least, she wrote a poem on the nativity of Mary.

Kate shares, in part, "Because of my own devotion to Mary, I want my children to know her, too. I want them to love her as I do. I want my girls to look to our Blessed Mother as the model of womanhood. I want them to pray the Rosary when they are grateful, sad, uncertain, joyous, sitting with their mommy sipping tea, and one day alone in their college dorms or when they, too, become parents." Her way of achieving this is inspiring, and, I think, has a packaging that just suits our whole discussion!

In an email that made me sit back and look at Mary's birthday through a new perspective, Mary wrote, "I am reminded of her willingness to say "Yes" to God, not knowing what the future would hold or to what degree she would be asked to be perfectly selfless in all she would be asked to do...even witnessing the horrible death of her only son on a cross. I turn to her as my children have cried out in agony, during tests, shots and procedures and I am reminded of all she suffered at the foot of the cross. Her obedience to all that was asked of Her guides me and inspires me to have trust in God's will for our family. Her statement at Cana, "Do whatever He asks of You" rings in my ears whenever I feel weak and discouraged. Today, I celebrate Our Blessed Mother's birth for it's great significance in ushering in the advent of salvation for all mankind and I feel so blessed to call Her "Mother.""

Celebrating the Mother Who Has Everything
We all have someone - maybe it is your mother - who has everything. It's that person who causes you to spend the entire year thinking and plotting and praying for inspiration before the gift-giving arrives. The Blessed Mother surely falls in this category, but even though she "has" everything, she is a mother.

What mother doesn't open those lovingly wrapped gifts, feeling blessed to be receiving? How can you honor your Heavenly Mother on her birthday? What kind of gift honors who she is, what she's done for you, how she loves you?

Silvia from Colorado sent me an email with her gift for Mary, and if this isn't something that will warm your heart too, then I don't know what will!

Barbara shares weekly liturgical activities (Mary's birthday is the first on the list) that will give you plenty of ideas for things you can do to learn more and celebrate this wonderful day.

Jean's gift to Mary is for the whole year. She writes, "Of course, she has my heart. Several years ago, I made my Consecration to Mary, entrusting my heart to her. Then, when I made my Oblature with the Community of St. John a few years ago, I offered up my life to Jesus through Mary, making promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience. So what's left?" You'll have to go see.

Jesus must have been a toddler, right? (I've pondered the same thing!) In a gift that made me smile, Ginny gives Mary a new title.

Celebrating the Other Places Online
As I was pulling this Mary Moments together, I found some resources I thought you might enjoy exploring.
Celebrating Next Month: the Rosary Edition
The rosary has a special place in my life, and I can't wait for next month's Mary Moments carnival! We'll be celebrating the rosary. Share your stories, your reflections, and your enthusiasm. What is your "relationship" with the rosary? What are some tips you have to share with others? How has the rosary impacted your life?

Submit your posts by October 10 using the online form or by emailing me at peerybingle [at] gmail [dot] com. If you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to host your guest post at my blog. We'll have the Mary Moments live by October 15.