Thursday 7 September 2023

'Great Mary's Holy Nativity': September 8

The birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary is commemorated on September 8 and is a feast found on our earliest Irish calendars. The Martyrology of Oengus records:
8. Thou shalt commemorate Mary: thou art not deadened on a scanty meal: with Timothy and three hundreds of martyrs. 
and the scholiast notes:
8. is commemorated .i. natiuitas etc. Mary's nativity is commemorated here, on a scanty meal, for pit means a meal, quasi dixisset thou shouldst not fast on Mary's feast. 
It is obviously a mark of the joyful nature of the feast and its importance that the normal fasting rules are set aside and a 'scanty meal' is not deemed appropriate. 
The Martyrology of Tallaght also records the feast as:
Natiuitas Mariae matris Iesu 
and the later twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman notes:

Noemghein Maire móre 
Great Mary's holy nativity.
Canon O'Hanlon in the September volume of his Lives of the Irish Saints has a short article about the Feast in which he mentions that the County Wexford parish of Kilnenor was one of those which held a traditional pattern on September 8. I was able to consult an online version of the Ordnance Survey Letters which Canon O'Hanlon had cited in his footnotes and there I learnt that this pattern 'was held on the 8th of September till the year 1798, when it was abolished'.

Article VI. Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the ancient Irish Church, the Festival of the Birth of our Divine Lord's Mother was celebrated on the eighth day of September, as we learn from the Feilire of Aengus. On this there is a short comment. About the year 695, this feast was appointed by Pope Servius. In various parts of Ireland, this festival was celebrated formerly with very special devotion, as parishes, churches and chapels had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and this was a favoured festival day. The patrons or patterns that until of late were yearly celebrated very conclusively attest it. In Kilnenor parish, County of Wexford, there is a holy well, at which a patron was formerly held on the 8th of September. According to a pious tradition a concert of angels is said to have been heard in the air to solemnize the Nativity or Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


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