Marian Feast Days

Our Lady of Lourdes procession

Marian feast days are specific holy days of the liturgical year celebrated by Christians as significant Marian days for the celebration of events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her veneration.

The earliest feasts that relate to Mary grew out of the cycle of feasts that celebrated the Nativity of Jesus. Given that according to the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40), forty days after the birth of Jesus, along with the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Mary was purified according to Jewish customs, the Feast of the Purification began to be celebrated by the 5th century, and became the Feast of Simeon in Byzantium.
The origin of Marian feasts is lost to history. Although references to specific Marian feasts where introduced into the liturgies in later centuries, there are indications that Christians celebrated Mary very early on. We have an example from the writings of Methodius, a bishop (died 311) from the 3rd and early 4th century, who wrote:
"And what shall I conceive, what shall I speak worthy of this day? I am struggling to reach the inaccessible, for the remembrance of this holy virgin far transcends all words of mine. Wherefore, since the greatness of the panegyric required completely puts to shame our limited powers, let us betake ourselves to that hymn which is not beyond our faculties, and boasting in our own unalterable defeat, let us join the rejoicing chorus of Christ’s flock, who are keeping holy-day. And do you, my divine and saintly auditors, keep strict silence, in order that through the narrow channel of ears, as into the harbour of the understanding, the vessel freighted with truth may peacefully sail. We keep festival, not according to the vain customs of the Greek mythology; we keep a feast which brings with it no ridiculous or frenzied banqueting of the gods, but which teaches us the wondrous condescension to us men of the awful glory of Him who is God over all....Do thou, therefore, O lover of this festival..." 
A separate feast for Mary, connected with the "Nativity of Jesus" cycle of feasts, originated in the 5th century, even perhaps before the First Council of Ephesus took place in 431. It seems certain that the sermon by Proclus before Nestorius (the Archbishop of Constantinople whose Nestorianism rejected the title of Theotokos) which began the controversy that lead to the 431 council was about a feast for the Virgin Mary.

Church. Byzantine Emperor Maurice selected August 15 as the date of the feast of Dormition and Assumption. The feast of the Nativity of Mary was perhaps started in the first half of the 7th century in the Eastern Church. In the Western Church a feast dedicated to Mary, just before Christmas was celebrated in the Churches of Milan and Ravenna in Italy in the 7th century. The four Roman Marian feasts of Purification, Annunciation, Assumption and Nativity of Mary were gradually and sporadically introduced into England and by the 11th century were being celebrated there.

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