Saturday, November 12, 2011

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Nov. 21

Presentation of the Virgin
by Titian


The "Wisdom of God with inscrutable providence, disposeth all things rightly: Joachim and Anne are united in wedlock, but their union is sterile.

With all the heart's affection they together bind themselves by inviolable vow to the Lord: that if He deign to give them offspring, they without delay will consecrate it to Him for ever in the temple.

A bright Angel appears, and tells them their prayers are heard, and by the grace of the most high King, a daughter shall be given them, full of grace.

Holy even in her conception, she is born in a wondrous manner, yet in a way more wondrous still will she give birth, remaining a virgin, to the Son of the most high Father, when He comes to, freely, cancel the guilt of the world.

She is born then, that blessed Virgin, and at the age of three years is presented in the temple; swift and erect, adorned with her beautiful robe, she ascends the fifteen steps, beneath her parents' gaze.

The temple shines with a new glory, when this august Virgin is presented; there she is taught by God, is visited by the Angels from heaven, and rejoices with them.

When the chief priest bids the maidens of adult age prepare for marriage, the Virgin at first refuses; for her parents have devoted her to God, and she herself has vowed to remain a virgin.

God, being consulted, answers that the virgin shall take him for her spouse whom a miraculous flower shall designate; Joseph thus chosen weds the maiden and leads her to his home.

Then Gabriel is sent to her, telling her how she is to become a mother; but the prudent Virgin stands silent, pondering over the strangeness of the message.

But when he explains how this shall be, she believes him; and thus by the Holy Spirit the Word is conceived, and He whom no space can contain is concealed in the Virgin's bosom.

O peerless maiden, how dost thou surpass all praise in thy dazzling glory! Protect us now, that in our fatherland we may enjoy thy fruit, whereby thou art so honored. Amen.

Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

The feast is associated with an event recounted not in the New Testament, but in the apocryphal Infancy Narrative of James. According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, who had been childless, received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, they brought her, when still a child, to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. For three years they kept this sacred treasure at home, after which time, although Mary was their only comfort, they resigned her with pious fortitude, in fulfilment of their vow. 

Religious parents never fail by devout prayer to consecrate their children to God, His divine service and love, both before and after their birth. Some among the Jews, not content with this general consecration of their children, offered them to God in their infancy, by the hands of the priests in the Temple, to be brought up in quarters attached to the Temple, attending the priests and Levites in their sacred ministry. There were special divisions in these lodgings for the women and children dedicated to the divine service. (III Kings 6:5-9) We have examples of this special consecration of children in the person of Samuel, for example.

The Gospel tells us nothing of the childhood of Mary; Her title Mother of God, eclipses all the rest. Where, better than in the Temple, could Mary be prepared for Her mission? Twelve years of recollection and prayer, contemplation and sufferings, were the preparation of the chosen one of God. The tender soul of Mary was adorned with the most precious graces and became an object of astonishment and praise for the holy Angels, as well as of the highest complacency for the adorable Trinity. The Father looked upon Her as His beloved Daughter, the Son as One set apart and prepared to become His Mother, and the Holy Ghost as His undefiled Spouse.

Here is how Mary’s day in the Temple was apportioned, according to Saint Jerome. From dawn until nine in the morning, She prayed; from 9:00 until 3:00 She applied Herself to manual work; then She turned again to prayer. She was always the first to undertake night watches, the One most applied to study, the most fervent in the chanting of Psalms, the most zealous in works of charity, the purest among the virgins, Her companions, the most perfect in the practice of every virtue. On this day She appears as the standard-bearer for Christian virginity: after Her will come countless legions of virgins consecrated to the Lord, both in the shadow of the altars or engaged in the charitable occupations of the Church in the world. Mary will be their eternal Model, their dedicated Patroness, their sure guide on the paths of perfection.

Mary remained in the Temple until puberty, at which point she was assigned to Joseph as guardian. Later versions of the story (such as the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary) tell us that Mary was taken to the Temple at around the age of three in fulfillment of a vow. Tradition held that she was to remain there to be educated in preparation for her role as Mother of God.

Though it cannot be proven historically, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.


It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate a feast like this. The Eastern Church, however, was quite open to this feast and even somewhat insistent about celebrating it. Even though the feast has no basis in history, it stresses an important truth about Mary: From the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God. She herself became a greater temple than any made by hands. God came to dwell in her in a marvelous manner and sanctified her for her unique role in God's saving work. At the same time, the magnificence of Mary enriches her children. They, too, are temples of God and sanctified in order that they might enjoy and share in God's saving work.

"Hail, holy throne of God, divine sanctuary, house of glory, jewel most fair, chosen treasure house, and mercy seat for the whole world, heaven showing forth the glory of God. Purest Virgin, worthy of all praise, sanctuary dedicated to God and raised above all human condition, virgin soil, unplowed field, flourishing vine, fountain pouring out waters, virgin bearing a child, mother without knowing man, hidden treasure of innocence, ornament of sanctity, by your most acceptable prayers, strong with the authority of motherhood, to our Lord and God, Creator of all, your Son who was born of you without a father, steer the ship of the Church and bring it to a quiet harbor" (adapted from a homily by St. Germanus on the Presentation of the Mother of God).


"Congratulate me, all ye that love the Lord, because when I was a little one I pleased the Most High (Second Responsory in the Common Office of Our Lady)." Such is the invitation thou addressest to us, O Mary, in the Office chanted in thy honor; and on what feast couldst thou do so more appropriately?

When, even more little in thy humility than by thy tender age, thou didst mount, in thy sweet purity, the steps of the temple, all heaven must have owned that it was henceforth just for the Most High to take His delight in our earth. Having hitherto lived in retirement with thy blessed parents, this was thy first public act; it showed thee for a moment to the eyes of men, only to withdraw thee immediately into deeper obscurity. But, as thou wast officially offered and presented to the Lord, He Himself doubtless, surrounded by the princes of His court, presented thee not less solemnly to those noble spirits, as their Queen. In the fulness of the new light that then burst upon them, they understood at once thy incomparable greatness, the majesty of the temple where Jehovah was receiving a homage superior to that of their nine choirs, and the august prerogative of the Old Testament to have thee for its daughter, and to perfect, by its teachings and guidance during those twelve years, the formation of the Mother of God.

Holy Church, however, declares that we can imitate thee, O Mary, in this mystery of thy Presentation, as in all others (2nd Lesson of 2nd Nocturn Ambr. de Virginibus ii). Deign to bless especially those privileged souls who, by the grace of their vocation, are even here below dwellers in the house of the Lord: may they be like that fruitful olive enriched by the Holy Spirit, to which St John Damascene compares thee (1st Lesson of 2nd Nocturn. Damasc. de Fide orthodoxa, iv.). But is not every Christian, by reason of his Baptism, an indweller and a member of the Church, God's true sanctuary, prefigured by that of Moriah? May we, through thy intercession, follow thee so closely in thy Presentation, even here in the land of shadows, that we may deserve to be presented after thee to the Most High in the temple of his glory (Collect of the feast).

The consecration of Mary to God presented all the conditions of the most perfect sacrifice: it was prompt, generous, joyous, unregretted, without reservation. How agreeable it must have been to God! May our consecration of ourselves to God be made under Her patronage, assisted by Her powerful intercession and united with Her ineffable merits.

The Presentation Of the Blessed Virgin Mary
How they loved
This longed-for child
How their eyes danced
At the first glance of God’s beautiful gift.
One happy year, then two, then before
They knew it they were moved
To bring Mary to the Temple-
Their child,
(She, who was to be,
The Mother of God.)
Ascending the steps the little one smiled,
Wisdom before, Wisdom behind
And as they watched with misted eyes
A voice said,’ Hope! Be reconciled!
I go into this holy place
Where all is light and all is grace,
The gift of life you’ve given me
Will bear the fruit to set men free.
I dedicate myself to God -
These temple walls do not divide
The love of those contained herein
From that which flows outside.
I shall take you in my heart
To where I do not know
As we are wont to follow where
The Spirit bids us go.
So not in sadness do you leave
Nor I in sadness stay
For we are in the Spirit’s love
Day unto gifted day.’


1 comment:

  1. Wow you found some GORGEOUS pictures for this post!! I'll try to include a blurb this week. :o) Thanks for sharing!!

    For Love of Cupcakes