Feast of the Presentation of Mary
The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is celebrated by the universal Church on November 21 every year. Celebration of this feast dates back as early as the sixth century in Jerusalem where a Church was built to honor this event. It eventually found its way onto the liturgical calendar of the universal Church in the 16th century. Not to be confused with the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, this feast recalls how the parents of Mary, Anna and Joachim, presented Mary in the Temple when she was young girl.
While this event is not recorded in Scripture, it is indeed found in Catholic tradition and highlights the fact that not every detail in the life of the Church is in the bible. There are many extra biblical sources which, although not deemed as inspired by the Holy Spirit and thus placed in the canon of Scripture by the Catholic Church, nonetheless have valuable information for us. For example, the names of Mary’s parents come to us from one such source called the Protoevangelium of James. This was one of the most influential non-biblical works that featured Mary.
As with any feast in the Church, it is worthwhile considering what meaning it holds for us in our lives today. Any feast relating to the Blessed Mother has special meaning because she is truly a model for all Christians. With the Presentation of Mary, some writers have reflected on the obedience that the young Mary would surely have shown during her early years spent in the Temple. Having an immaculate nature, she would have excelled in virtue and in faithfulness to the menial tasks set before her.
Further, some have speculated that her formation there would have exposed her to the prophecies of the Messiah from the Hebrew Scriptures. She would have immersed herself in prayerful pondering of these texts and known of the chosen people’s hope for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. An illustration of this can be seen in the remarkable similarities of Mary’s Magnificat to the prayer of Hannah, who rejoiced in God’s gift to her of a child after having been barren.
Reflection on the Presentation of Mary can provide rich insights with respect to the meaning of the Temple. The Temple of Jerusalem housed the holy of holies, where God was present in a unique way. How powerful it is to think that Mary, who spent those early years in the Temple would one day contain the holy of holies, the Second Person of the Trinity, within her womb.
One of the main purposes of the Temple was for the offering of sacrifices, which took place on an altar. Saint Manuel González García, a recently canonized saint, stated beautifully that the “The virginal womb of Mary is the altar where the Holy Spirit consecrates Christ, high Priest.” The great high priest who would one day offer the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of the Cross was carried within Mary who served as a living Temple of the incarnate God.
We, too, by our baptism are living Temples of the Indwelling Trinity. As we ponder the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, let us ask Mary for her intercession. We pray that Mary, the Mother of Christ and our Mother, will teach us the meaning of sacrifice and help us more intentionally allow Christ into our lives, especially as we anticipate the meaning of His birth this upcoming Advent Season.