It is said that of old time Our Lady appeared in a dream to John, a devout Roman patrician, and to his wife, as also to Liberius, the reigning Pope, asking that a church in her honour be erected on the Esquiline Hill, the Lord confirming this triple vision by a signal miracle, the fall of snow to mark out the site, and that in the middle of a hot Roman August: and this building thus donated and constructed, in due course consecrated under her title of Mother of God by Pope Sixtus III, betokening the triumph over heresy won at Ephesus, is the far-famed Church of St Mary Major, Santa Maria Maggiore, so-named because the first and greatest of all churches in Rome and the West dedicated to the Most Holy Virgin; and it is also called ad Nives, of the Snows, in memory of its miraculous origins; and furthermore ad Præsepe, for, as befits the greatest shrine of the Lord's Mother, it holds the unique relic of the Crib in which rested the Divine Infant upon His Birth in Bethlehem of Judæa, before Whose Presence Our Lady's Heart thrilled with joy, St Joseph worshipped in amaze, the Shepherds came all inspired by angelic instruction, while the Magi, seeing the Child with Mary His Mother, falling down adored Him.
Truly, blessed is she who believed, for all the things told her by the Lord came to pass; and all generations, as she prophesied by the Holy Ghost, indeed have, do and shall call her blessed. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite gives for to-day's feast the common Marian collect Concede nos famulos (used at Vespers in the Little Office), while the Ordinary Form appoints Famulorum tuorum quæsumus (until 1950, the collect for the Vigil of the Assumption, still used at None in the Little Office); the Dominican Rite, however, used the following:
Supplicationem servorum tuorum, Deus miserator, exaudi, ut qui in solemnitate Dei Genitricis et Virginis congregamur, ejus intercessionibus a te de instantibus periculis eruamur. Per eumdem...(Mercifully hear, O God, the prayers of Thy servants, that we who are gathered together on the solemnity of the Virgin Mother of God, may through her intercession be delivered by Thee from the dangers that threaten us. Through the same...)
I look forward to visiting this church during my upcoming Roman holiday.
Other saints of the day include St Nonna, wife of St Gregory the Elder and mother of SS Gregory the Great, Cæsarius and Gorgonia - a holy family almost to rival that of St Gregory the Great, his father St Gordianus, his mother St Silvia, and his aunts SS Trasilla and Emiliana (the relics of the last three of these I will venerate when at the Cælian in just over a month's time).