The birthday of Our Lady is kept with great solemnity in thanksgiving for the raising of the Turkish siege of Malta on 8 September 1565. At Valletta, in the Order's church of St. John the Baptist, there was venerated an ancient icon of Our Lady which had originally been brought from Jerusalem to the shrine on Mount Phileremos on Rhodes (hence the title). An exact copy is now one of the treasures of the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels at Assisi.
This feast, which traces the privileges of Our Lady to Christ her son, was introduced by Pope Sergius I (687-701), following Eastern tradition. Our Lady's Birthday is closely linked with the coming of the Messiah: it is the promise, the preparation and the fruit of salvation. Mary was the dawn before the Sun of Justice and the herald to all the world of the joy brought by our Saviour.