Who's in this painting?

No, it's not Mary holding the baby Jesus.

Rather, it's St. Ann, the grandmother of Jesus, holding her daughter Mary in her arms.

September 8 is the day when the Church commemorates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Do we know the actual date of Mary's birth? Well, certainly not from any birth certificate! But if you count back exactly nine months from September 8, you'll find yourself at another important date on the church calendar: December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. (This is a good way to remember that the feast of the Immaculate Conception is not about the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb but rather about the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, Ann.)

In the history of the church calendar, the feast of Mary's birthday was observed centuries before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined in 1854. The September 8 commemoration of Mary's birth led to choosing December 8 as the date for celebrating her conception as immaculate.

The illustration above is detail from The Birth of the Virgin by painter Domenico Beccafumi.


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