Monti Fest or Nativity is the birthday of Blessed Virgin Mary which is celebrated on 8th September. This feast is celebrated by Catholic communities residing in West coast of India, especially the Konkani speaking people. The feast of Mother Mary also coincides with the Harvest Festival. Today, Monti Fest has become a global celebration among the people as the community has spread all over the world.
The nine days of Novena prayers begin on Sunday, 30 August until 7 September in all Catholic churches. The days of novena are a preparation for the Monti Fest and harvest feast for the whole family. The novena begins each day with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. At the end of the novena and mass service on each day, the crowd, mainly children, offer flowers in a ceremonious manner to Infant Mary. Sweets/sugarcane are distributed to all the children as well as the elders on the novena days.
After the 9th day of the novena, the Festival of Nativity and Harvest will be celebrated in a grand manner on Tuesday, 8 September 2015. During the days of the novena, we prepare well for this great solemnity, with much devotion. We raise our hearts and minds to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invoking her help and protection. The grand celebration of Monti Fest is held with traditional gaiety and religious fervour at all the churches, which are decorated tastefully for the occasion. Special masses, feasts, religious ceremonies and a series of festivities in churches, parishes and homes is the order of the day. On this special day, the Catholic community members take the freshly grown paddy stalks to their respective churches in a procession as an offering of the first bounty of nature to Mother Mary. Special prayers are offered pleading the Holy Mother to keep the fertility of the soil for generations to come and to provide all the bounties of nature to the children of the world. Monti Fest evokes a flood of fond nostalgic memories in their minds of sugarcane, sweets, borrowing flowers from the neighborhood, delicious meals from freshly harvested vegetables, ‘vorn’ and so on. It also includes Blessing of the new corn, showering of flowers to Infant Mary, consuming the grains of the new harvest in a cup of milk or sweet ‘vorn’ and eating a variety of vegetarian dishes at the festive meal. This heartwarming harvest feast celebrates and culminates the hard work of the Konkan farmers with the birthday of dear Mother Mary.
According to New Testament (Gospels), Mary’s early history states that her parents were elderly couples, St. Joachim and St. Anne. Mary was given to service as a consecrated virgin in the Temple in Jerusalem when she was three years old, much like Hannah took Samuel to the Tabernacle as recorded in the Old Testament. According to Christian religious tradition, Mary was an Israelite Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee and the mother of Jesus. Among her many other names and titles are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and Virgin Mary in Western churches.
According to Luke, Mary was a cousin of Elizabeth, wife of the priest Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah, who was herself part of the lineage of Aaron and so of the tribe of Levi (Luke 1:15; 1:36). Some of those who consider that the relationship with Elizabeth was on the maternal side, consider that Mary, like Joseph to whom she was betrothed, was of the House of David and that the genealogy of Jesus presented in Luke 3 from Nathan, third son of David and Bathsheba, is in fact the genealogy of Mary, while the genealogy from Solomon given in Matthew 1:15-16 is that of Joseph. (Aaron’s wife Elisheba was of the tribe of Judah, so all his descendants are from both Levi and Judah – Num 1:7; Ex 6:23)
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke describe Mary as a virgin. Traditionally, Christians believe that she conceived her son miraculously through the Holy Spirit. This took place when she was already betrothed to St Joseph and was awaiting the concluding rite of marriage, the formal home-taking ceremony. She married Joseph and accompanied him to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. The New Testament begins its account of Mary’s life with the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced her divine selection to be the mother of Jesus. The angel Gabriel announced to her that she was to be the mother of the promised Messiah by conceiving him through the Holy Spirit. The Bible records Mary’s role in key events in the life of Jesus from his conception until his death on the cross and resurrection on the third day.
Since the angel Gabriel had told Mary (according to Luke 1:19) that Elizabeth having previously been barren was then miraculously pregnant, Mary hurried to see Elizabeth, who was living with her husband Zechariah in “Hebron, in the hill country of Judah”. Mary arrived at the house and greeted Elizabeth, who called Mary “the mother of my Lord”, and Mary spoke the words of praise that later became known as the Magnificat from her first word in the Latin version (Lk 1:46-55). After about three months, Mary returned to her own house (Lk 1:56-57). Mary resided in “her own house” (Lk 1:56) in Nazareth in Galilee, possibly with her parents, and during her betrothal – the first stage of a Jewish marriage. After a number of months, when Joseph was told of her conception in a dream by “an angel of the Lord”, he was surprised; but the angel told him to be unafraid and take her as his wife, which Joseph did, thereby formally completing the wedding rites (Mt 1:18-25).
The humility and obedience to the message of God has made her an exemplar for all ages of Christians. Out of the details supplied in the New Testament by the Gospels about the maid of Galilee, Christian piety and theology have constructed a picture of Mary that fulfills the prediction ascribed to her in the Magnificat (Luke 1:48): “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” Mary is also depicted as being present among the women during the crucifixion of Lord Jesus standing near “the disciple whom Jesus loved” along with Mary of Clopas and Mary Magdalene (Jn 19:25-26).
Thus, Monti Fest is the celebration of family bonds, filial relationships and a feast which makes us aware that we are very much a part of nature bringing us closer to Jesus, Mother Mary and Mother Nature, above all to God Almighty.
Wishing all Readers A Very Happy Monti Fest and may all be blessed. Let it be….
Alban D’ Souza, Bajjodi – Mangaluru