07 September 2017

What Does Tradition say about the Birth of the Virgin Mary?

There are two traditions regarding the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. One tells us that she was born in Sephoris, near Nazareth. The other, tells us that she was born in Jerusalem. This report will help us get to know both places.

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Mary is known as the Virgin of Nazareth, because in this small town of Galilee she received the proclamation from the Angel that she would become the Mother of Jesus. And it was there that, along with St. Joseph, she raised the Child Jesus.

But what was the location of the the Virgin Mary’s birth, an event that the Church celebrates every year on September 8?

Basilica of the Annunciation
“There are two main places mentioned by Tradition. One tradition says that her parents, Joachim and Anne, and consequently, Mary, were from from Sephoris, a few miles from Nazareth, and in fact, on the day of the Feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne, a celebration is held in Sephoris.

The other tradition, on the other hand, states that the place of the birth of Our Lady is Jerusalem.

Community of White Fathers - Church of St. Anne
“An ancient Tradition, based on the second century apocryphal gospel of James, tells us that the place was near the Temple of Jerusalem.”

There, where one can also find the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, the crusaders built a Church dedicated to St. Anne.

Community of White Fathers - Church of St. Anne
“When the crusaders came here, they built this church specifically to commemorate Mary’s birth, and in fact, inside the Church there is the Crypt that Tradition considers as the place, or rather the home, where Anne and Joachim lived. It is like a grotto; Jesus was born in a grotto. John the Baptist was born in Ein Karem in a grotto. The back part of the grotto was used quite frequently, which was considered to be the authentic part of the house.”

Subsequently, the crusaders were expelled from there, and the site became a Muslim school that was not accessible to Christians.

During the Ottoman era, however, the Franciscans obtained permission to celebrate the Feast of Mary’s Nativity. In 1856, the Church was donated to France and entrusted to the White Fathers, who are still its guardians [to this day].

The site is now open for visits. It is possible to visit the grotto where, according to Tradition, Mary was conceived without sin, [and this] is an emotional experience!

It is also interesting to note that the only births celebrated by the Church are those of Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary.

Community of White Fathers - Church of St. Anne
“The Liturgy says that Mary is the dawn of our salvation. The Sun arrives after dawn and the dawn precedes it to show us that the Sun is coming. His birth is thus the dawn of our salvation.”

And from here, from the Holy Land, the devotion to Our Lady has spread. From East to the West, all over the world, the Mother of God is well known!

In the Colonnade of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, there are mosaics with different representations of Our Lady from all over the world.

Basilica of the Annunciation
“Devotion to Our Lady has grown for many centuries because she is the Mother of God! This was quite clear, for example, during the Council of Ephesus when the matter of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ was defined. It was clear to everyone that Mary was, therefore, the Mother of God, Theotókos, and as such, not only the Mother of the human Jesus, but that of both of his natures, both human and divine.”