The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary – ‘Ettu Nompu’
by Elizabeth Menon by Elizabeth Menon

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The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary – ‘Ettu Nompu’

Christians honour the Mother of Jesus on 8 September – the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been a celebration in the church since the 8th century. It is worth remembering that the Church calendar observes only three birthdays: Jesus Christ, and the two saints – Saint John the Baptist on 24 June, and Mary, Mother of Jesus on 8 September . Pope Pius IX declared the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on 8 December 1854, though it was believed throughout the Church for centuries; this refers to the conception of Mary by her mother, Saint Anne, celebrated on 8 December. Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption on 1 November 1950, stating that Mary was assumed into heavenly glory, body and soul at the end of her earthly course, celebrated on 15 August.

Orthodox Churches in India have five Lents, which are observed the world over, though some are more revered and acceptable to the faithful. The three-day Nineveh Nompu and the fifty-day lent (Forty days in most parts) are more popular; and among the other three Lents, the twenty-five-day Yeldho Nompu and the fifteen-day Shoonoyo Nompu are more acceptable, the thirteen-day Sleeha Nombu being the least observed. This special reverence towards certain Lents, churches or saints, is more likely to be attributed to personal reasons rather than spiritual! The eight-day Lent, the ‘Ettu Nompu’, during the first eight days of September as Practiced in Kerala in India, celebrating the birth of Virgin Mary is a great example of this in spite of having no proclamation of dogma from the church!

There is no mention of the birth of Mary or her parentage in the scripture, except for the mention in the apocryphal ‘Gospel of James’; Mary’s parents: Joachim and Anne who were past the child-bearing age, like the parents of John the Baptist, Elizabeth and Zachariah. John the Baptist is believed to be sanctified even before his birth; his mother, Elizabeth, felt the infant leap in her womb when Mary approached her after the Annunciation -- 24 March is celebrated in the church as the day of Annunciation.

The Orthodox Christians in India, especially in Kerala, celebrate the Feast of the Birth of Virgin Mary during eight days in September, ‘Ettu Nompu’ – the eight-days’ Lent’. It begins on the first day of September and ends in a grant celebration on 8 September. Believers feel blessed and receive enlightenment through the intercession of Virgin Mary. The real reason behind Ettu Nompu gaining in popularity is the immense faith attributed by people to Virgin Mary and their uncompromising dependence on Her in their personal needs. Intercession with Virgin Mary is highly valued and accepted and the faithful value the day of birth much more than the day of Assumption.

‘Manarcad St Mary’s Church’ in Kerala (India) is famous for the ‘Manarcad Perunal (Feast for eight Days) or ‘Ettu Nompu’, which is held annually from September 1-8. Pilgrims from all over the world travel to Manarcad to observe the fast for eight days and there is a grant procession during the last three days. According to the legend, the forefathers fasted and prayed for a place of worship and on the 8th day they had a vision to build the Church in a specific spot. And thus, the St Mary’s Church in Manarcad was built around 1000 years ago!
The ‘Eight-day Manarcad Perunal’ attracts millions of worshippers who seek the blessings of Virgin Mary. The worshippers end the fast on the 8th day by attending the special function in the church on that day returning to their homes blessed by the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. The ‘Milk rice’ given to the worshippers after the ceremony is quite famous and revered by the people.

A mother figure, Virgin Mary and Child, is the pivotal object of worship in several religions, but the Orthodox Christians in India, more so in Kerala, celebrate Her birth by fasting for eight days during the ‘Ettu Nompu’, which culminates in the celebratory Mass and procession on the 8th day. Saint Mary’s birth celebrations gain the great importance only through the anticipation of the Incarnation and birth of Jesus, the Son of God -- Mary was the ‘Chosen One’ to be the Mother of Jesus!

'Lady's Mantle': 'Lady's Mantle' protecting all women! This plant is also called Alchemilla mollis; it is called Lady's mantle, as this plant has been associated with the Virgin Mary, the lobes of the leaves resemble the scalloped edges of a mantle, and hence 'Lady's mantle' -- it has healing properties and hence, protective mantle of the Virgin Mary -- Virgin Mary is the 'Mother of all' and therefore very appropriate!

“Blessed art thou among women
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb”

Blessings of Virgin Mary to all, especially to all the mothers – celebrating motherhood on this auspicious day!

©E Menon

© E Menon



Excellent article on The Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Look forward to reading more of your work.

Jenna Pope

Catholicism Channel Manager
02/20/2011 - 07:17
Jenna Pope
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