Nativity of Mary – Monthi Feast – Nostalgic Memories


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By Br Mahesh D’Souza


Br Mahesh D’Souza
St Joseph’s Seminary Mangalore

 

Mangalore, 07 September 2011: The birth of a child is always a moment of joy. When child is born whether it is in the mansions of the rich or in the hovels of the poor there is always laughter and song, celebration and festivity. And so we approach the feast of Our Lady’s birth with same mood of joy and cheer, celebrating and feasting for this is not an ordinary child’s birth, it’s the celebration of our being saved from the powers of evil one. It is a celebration of our redemption. 8 September is the Nativity of Mother Mary. It’s a day we raise our hearts to Our Blessed Mother in praise and thanksgiving for all the gifts and graces we have received through her intercession. Catholics celebrate harvest festival on this day. It is considered as a family feast, which brings together all family members, including those loved ones are specially remembered who are living far from home.

 

 

Mother Mary Co – Worker of God

Mother Mary is called in various names in various places. One of them is ‘Mount Mary’, which is in Konkani ‘Monthi Mai’. Mary is a woman of faith. She cooperated with God and through her son Jesus, the saviour of the world, was born. In other words Mother Mary gave us the saviour. Mother is the co worker of God in giving us redemption. As Christ is the mediator between God and man, so Mary is the mediator between Christ and us. She is the earthly principle of love that leads to the Heavenly principle of love. The birth of the Virgin Mary is the prelude to the birth of Jesus. We as the Children of Mary need to manifest her good qualities so that we too are able to give the Saviour to the world in our words and deeds. This feast must be an occasion for us to know Jesus and His Good News. If we ourselves become a Good News then our Christian existence is meaningful and complete.

 

Brief History of Nativity of Mary and Monthi  Feast

The feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been celebrated in the Church at least since the eighth century. The Church’s calendar observes the birthdays of only two saints: Saint John the Baptist (June 24) and Mother Mary. There is nothing contained in the Scripture about the birth of Mary or her parentage, though Joseph’s lineage is given in the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. The names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in the apocryphal “Gospel of James”, a book dating from the second century AD, not part of the authentic canon of Scripture. In celebrating the Nativity of Mary, Christians anticipate the Incarnation and birth of her Divine Son, and give honour to the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

 

According to some elders this feast was first celebrated in Mumbai. In Bandra there were fishermen. They were troubled by the storms in the sea. They built a Church in the name of Mount Mary on a hill next to the shore so that Mother Mary would protect them in the sea. They called it ‘Mount Mary Church’. Once in a year they used to offer the fish they caught as well as vegetables, fruits and flowers to the Lady and thus they celebrated the feast of “Mount Mary”. This tradition is said to have come down to Mangalore and have become “Monthi Feast”.

 

 

All those who celebrate this feast celebrate with great honour and devotion and pray to be like Our Lady. There is yet another traditional belief to this feast which arises from our local history. ‘Monthi Feast’ has its origin in Farangipet in the outskirts of Mangalore. It was here, Fr Joachim Miranda, a Goan Catholic Priest, who lived around 250 years ago, started this practice on top of a hill, on the northern bank of the Nethravahi River on an ancient place called Monte Mariano. It is known as Mount of Mary. Oral tradition goes to state that the Nativity festival of Our Lady was first celebrated at Monte Mariano to coincide with the annual feast of the Church.

 

Divine and Human Mother

Mother Mary, is what every woman wants to be. Mothers have been entrusted with care of life. It is said that God trusted them so much that He gave that mission to them. This Marian feast, then, reminds us the vocation and mission of every mother who has been chosen to shape and form the future humankind. While we thank God for our Mothers, it is proper that we ask the heavenly mother to bless our mothers so that we have better world and vibrant families. Perhaps our modern families require a little more care and concern.

 

Monthi  Feast

In West Coastal region of India, this feast is popularly known as Monthi Feast and is a special feast because of the local traditions. It is customary to bless the new corns and have a family meal together. In other words, it’s a family feast. Mary, being the mother of the Church, it is fitting that these customs blend on her feast. Monthi Feast has a unique quality of bringing all parishioners under one roof for celebration. It is the birthday of Mother Mary but also it is also significant that the celebration of arrival of new corns as a gift of mother earth. It is a beautiful ceremony as Christian fraternity in west coastal region and all over the world celebrates the birth anniversary of Mother Mary.

 

The situation is just right. The fields are green and the rivers are full. The Churches and their courtyards are full of men, women and children who cover the Church courtyard with petals of flowers which make it a befitting birthday tribute to Mother Mary. Christian families in their respective Parishes on this occasion are given strands of freshly cut and blessed paddy, which they take home and include it into their ‘Novem Jevann’ (New meal). The family then partakes in a fully vegetarian meal, served traditionally on banana leaves and drink milk or “vorn” (Payasam) mixed with the new corn.

 

In recent times many of the west coastal region people have travelled across oceans to look for a better life. Many of them have permanently settled in countries other than their birth place. Yet the desire is very strong to their roots and pass on their age old traditions to the next generation.

 

The Nativity Feast serves as the perfect opportunity for families to mingle with each other and celebrate together as it brings back memories of home and of locality. The Monthi Feast spreads joy everywhere and on this occasion many Christians also share specially prepared dishes with their friends from other communities. People from our native who have settled in other parts of the world also celebrate Monthi Feast with community members.

 

Nostalgia

As the time is crawling close for Monthi Feast, being a Mangalorian and remaining in the seminary I feel very uncomfortable. “Sakkad Sangatam Melyam” and “Moryek Hogoslsiyam” hymns which are heard from the courtyard of Jeppu Church in the evenings these days push my memory bock to those sweet nostalgic days of my childhood.

 

In my childhood, I couldn’t understand the meaning and the importance of this feast and several rituals like novena, offering flowers to Mother Mary, blessing of the first paddy crops, distribution of sugar cane, special meal together with the family members,  but still these things dragged me closer to this feast and Mother Mary. Among all these different rituals, what I liked most is the ‘flower tradition’. Together with my brothers and neighbouring friends I used to collect flowers for Mother Mary.

 

It was our utter craze in those days to gather varieties of flowers. Since at my house flowers were less and not enough, flower gardens of neighbouring houses served our needs even of non Christians. Looking at our devotion and enthusiasm the neighbours willingly allowed us to pick flowers from their garden. One who brings the most number of flowers with most varieties to the Church was appreciated in peer group.

 

Also there was a silly belief that the person will get more blessings for the amount of flowers one gets. So all children tried to bring as much flowers as possible. After gathering flowers selection had to be made for the biggest, the most beautiful and rarely seen flower which was to be offered to the statue of Infant Mary. At the end sweets were distributed to the children who bring flowers. On the feast day, the most awaited day for the children, to collect the sugar cane. These are the objects which initiated in me to the devotion of our Heavenly Mother and brought me closer to her in love.

 

As we celebrate the feast of Mary, daughters, and we her sons rejoice in her maternal intercession and pray that this feast may bring joy and happiness in our lives.

 

Happy Monthi Fest to all of You.

 

 

Comments on this Article
Joy lobo, moodubelle/mangalore Thu, September-8-2011, 1:34
Very nice article from Br Mahesh, gathering flowers and offering to our Mother Mary, it was a very nice and joyful moment of my childhood days. HAPPY FEAST ALL OF YOU.
Canute Castellino, Shirva Wed, September-7-2011, 4:11

The most crux part of your article is at the end part. Your nostalgic memories are my memoories too. Thanks for making me remember my sweet childhood days

simon fernandes, udupi Wed, September-7-2011, 3:57
A very nice reflection on the occassion of nativity of mary.. You have good insights brother. Keep writing and enlighten us continously. We foresee wonderful articles in future.
James Rodrigues, Manki(Honnavar taluq) Wed, September-7-2011, 2:34
Thank you brother for your excellent article about mamma mary.....happy feast for you and your family....Thank you brother for your excellent article about mamma mary.....happy feast for you and your family....
Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle Wed, September-7-2011, 2:01
A very good timely article by Br. Mahesh on the occasion of the Monthi Festh.
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