Translation of the Relics and Solemn Pontifical Mass on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Nativity of the Virgin Mary Parish Church, Mellieħa
7 September 2019
If anyone had to ask me: ‘But why do you celebrate today’s feast? What are the profound beliefs that help us remember?” A fitting reply to these questions can be found in the last verse of the Gospel according to St Matthew proclaimed by the deacon today: “Look, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall his name Emmanuel – which, when translated, means, ‘God with us’.” (Mt 1:23).
The Maltese have always, most especially after the Great Siege of 1565, and more recently on this day in 1943, when the Italian fleet surrendered in our Great Harbour, read this feast through the sign that even though the Lord, throughout our history, put us through trials and tribulations, God was always with us, not a distant God. Such a narrative has forged our identity and built us up as a people.
Today we are rejoicing in the nativity of this little baby, a girl, born from two parents that tradition tells us were called Anne and Joachim. We are rejoicing because the Mother of our Saviour has been born to us. With the nativity of this baby, we are celebrating this God who loves us so much that he is not scandalized neither by our defects, nor by our sins nor by our failures. Truly, he gives us life, he raises us up by becoming one of us, and today we celebrate the birth of the one chosen from her conception to be his Mother, his most beautiful dwelling.
The Pope decided, following a request presented by us bishops – myself, Bishop Mario, and Bishop Joseph, that in Malta and Gozo, the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Il-Bambina) should be a solemnity, the highest grade of liturgical feasts found in the Church calendar ensuring that if this feast falls on a Sunday it would not be lost, as would have happened this year. I would like to wish the members of this beloved parish, a happy feast. I also greet the representative of the Pope.
Eccellenza, voglio concludere questa mia breve riflessione con un particolare saluto alla sua persona come Nunzio Apostolico e al Papa Francesco che in questi giorni sta in un pellegrinaggio in Africa, e voglio chiedere a vostra eccellenza di portare la gratitudine di noi popolo Maltese e Gozitano per la decisione del Papa di concedere alla provincia ecclesiastica Maltese di poter celebrare in tuttte le chiese questa celebrazione della nascita della mama di Gesù come solennità.
I am therefore asking the Nuncio to convey our gratitude [to the Pope] because this feast is most beloved in our history for it reminds us of our roots as a nation. When the Maltese were striving for their rights and self-governance, our ancestors always recalled this day as the day that sealed our fate as a nation. A nation that is not closed within its walls because such a siege mentality means that it is not aware of its identity. Such a mentality is also a deterrent to welcoming others. The fact that we open our hearts, minds, homes, our country to others who hail from different cultures, does not mean that we forget our origins or our identity. All of this can be possible, this encounter between cultures can take place, if we recognize how deep our roots go. To this end, I pray for the intercession of Mary so she will continue to water our roots with her love and protection.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
Reading I: Mikea 5:1-4a
Reading II: Rum 8:28-30
Gospel: Mt 1:1-16. 18-23