Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On November 21st, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple. Though not recorded in canonical scripture, tradition holds that at a young age, Ann and Joachim, Mary’s parents, brought her to the Temple in Jerusalem to have her consecrated to God. In some accounts, it is said that she was taken to the Temple at the age of 3 and lived there, being educated, until she was betrothed to Joseph. Like much to do with the early life of the Virgin and of her mother and father, the story has been handed down in tradition and upheld by Doctors of the Church, though the only written accounts are found in documents determined to be apocryphal.
The Catholic Encyclopedia recounts the history of the recognition of the Feast which was celebrated in the East first:
“The corresponding feast originated in the Orient, probably in Syria, the home of the apocrypha. Cardinal Pitra has published a great…liturgical poem in Greek for this feast, composed by some "Georgios" about the seventh or eighth century. The feast is missing in the earlier Menology of Constantinople (eighth century); it is found, however, in the liturgical documents of the eleventh century, like the 'Calend. Ostromiranum' and the Menology of Basil II. It appears in the constitution of Manuel Comnenos (1166) as a fully recognized festival during which the law courts did not sit.
In the West it was introduced by a French nobleman, Philippe de Mazières, Chancellor of the King of Cyprus, who spent some time at Avignon during the pontificate of Gregory XI. It was celebrated in the presence of the cardinals (1372) with an office accommodated from the office chanted by the Greeks. In 1373 it was adopted in the royal chapel at Paris, 1418 at Metz, 1420 at Cologne. Pius II granted (1460) the feast with a vigil to the Duke of Saxony. It was taken up by many dioceses, but at the end of the Middle Ages, it was still missing in many calendars. At Toledo it was assigned (1500) by Cardinal Ximenes to 30 September. Sixtus IV received it into the Roman Breviary, Pius V struck it from the calendar, but Sixtus V took it up a second time (1585).”
In the book, “The Wondrous Childhood of the Most Holy Mother of God,” the author, St. John Eudes compares Mary’s leaving home to be presented in the temple to three other significant departures from the home in scripture.
The first is of Adam, who along with Eve, who were forced to depart the Garden of Eden because of their sin. Adam’s departure of his original home in Paradise was deplorable, while Mary’s departure to be educated in the Temple was happy and advantageous, as she was preparing for the eventual carrying of the Redeemer in her womb.
The second departure is that of Abraham, the patriarch. He left his home and his parents when he was already an aging man. He was already married, and took with him his wife, his nephew and all their belongings. Abraham’s going forth disposed him to be the father of innumerable children, father of all believers. The departure of Mary, a daughter of Abraham, was to dispose her to become the Mother of God, and therefore, the Mother of all children of God.
The third departure of which St. John Eudes speaks is of Christ Himself. This departure is His coming from Heaven, departing from the bosom of the Father, to be on earth, to fulfill an act of infinite Love. St. Eudes describes the similarities that Mary was asked, and willingly agreed, to bear. She was asked to leave her home, her comfort, all that she had known, in preparation for her role as the Mother of God. Jesus Christ would come down from heaven, leave behind comfort in favor of pain, even to the point of death on a cross, in order to bring salvation. Once again, in her submission to the will of God, Mary is a role model for all mankind.
From The Wondrous Childhood:
“His example He would preach later by saying 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.' He also inspired her whom He had chosen to be His mother and ours to do the same thing; to leave father, mother, house, country and relatives; to renounce the world before she had known it; to forsake all things and what is more, herself and all her inclinations.”