The month of May is not only devoted to mothers, the Church specifically dedicates this month of flowers and greenery to the Mother of God – the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of Mary, the Gospels only make such mention as connects her with the personal history of her Son, but there is a larger tradition, largely unknown, handed down from the Church fathers of the early centuries on the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. St. Jerome, St. Justin Martyr, St. John Damescene, and St. Gregory of Nyssa are but a few well-known writers who vouch for the existence and the authority of the Catholic traditions relating to the Mother of God, to her birth and early life up to the point where saints Matthew and Luke begin their accounts of her life with the Holy Family.
According to St. Justin Martyr, who died fifty years after St. John the Evangelist, Mary was born in Nazareth. Her father’s name was Joachim and her mother was Anna. It is said that the child Mary was sent to her parents as a reward for ardent prayer after being barren for many years. Because she was destined to bear the Savior, Mary had the unique privilege of being born without the stain of Original Sin . This is what the Church calls the Immaculate Conception.
Anna’s blessed child was born on September 8, around the year of Rome 730, that is approximately 15 years before the birth of Christ. In the Koran (chapter 3), it is written that when the baby was born, her mother said: “O God, I have brought into the world a daughter, and have named her Miriam (Mary). I place her under Thy protection; preserve her from the designs of Satan.”
The Presentation, a solemn ceremony of naming a new-born baby, was performed by the Jews on the eighth day after the birth. When Mary reached three years, her parents, in fulfillment of their vow to consecrate her to God, took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem, and gave her up to the priests to be educated within the precincts of the Temple, where other children who were also dedicated by vows were brought up together.
St. James describes Mary, during her youth, as seated before a spindle of wool dyed purple. The Jews had borrowed from the Phoenicians the art of giving fabrics they wove a purple dye which became recognized as the color of royalty. St. Epiphansius says that the Blessed Virgin was skilled in embroidery, and in weaving wool, fine linen, and cloth.
Meanwhile, according to tradition, Mary’s parents led holy lives. Her father died first, when Mary was thirteen, and her mother died shortly after. Once Mary was orphaned, it was the duty of her closest relative to find her a husband. St. Gregory of Nyssa writes, however, that Mary wished to return to the Temple to continue her secluded life as a maiden. Her relatives refused and insisted that she chose a husband from among the many who sought to marry her. She chose Joseph, a carpenter.
Joseph, who was poor, supported himself by making cabinets for those who lived in Galilee. Both he and Mary wanted nothing more than to lead a secluded life, aiming at moral perfection which they thought was above the reach of those who congregated in the cities. They went to reside in their ancestral home in Nazareth, where Joachim and Anna had lived and died.
“The Angel Gabriel was sent from God into a city of Galilee, called Nazareth, to a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David, and the Virgin’s name was Mary.” The angel, as the Gospels tell us, announced to Mary that she had been divinely chosen to be the mother of the long-promised Redeemer, Jesus. At this announcement she humbly bowed and accepted this responsibility. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word,” she said. And then the angel left her. Thus begins the Gospel accounts of Mary’s life with Jesus whom she formed as a boy into the Man who died for the sins of the world.
The rest, as they say, is history!