The Presentation of the Mother of God

November 21

Icon courtesy of Dmitry Shkolnik

 Although this 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.

Mary was the only child of her parents Saint Anne and Saint Joachim. Though it was not obligatory to present a first-born daughter to the Lord, as it was with a first-born son, many Jewish parents did follow this custom. Girls were presented at about the age of three, where they studied the Word of God and performed temple service.

When Mary was presented, she was received by St. Zacharias, the father of St. John the Forerunner, as he was the High Priest at that time.  He took her by the hand and led her into, not only the Holy Place, but into the Holy of Holies.  This was the place that only the High Priest was to enter, and only on the Day of Atonement.  The only explanation for this is that he was moved by the Spirit of God.

Her presentation at the Temple meant that Mary later probably learned to read sacred Scripture and also to write, in addition to learning traditional feminine skills, such as weaving, sewing, and cooking.  When she was 14, Mary was betrothed, following a religious custom, to Joseph. She went to Nazareth with Joseph, where she continued her religious life of prayer and study.  It was there, in Nazareth, that Mary was visited by the angel who told her she would be the mother of Jesus, God’s Son.  We see the faith and obedience of her “fiat” at the time of the Annunciation as especially poignant and significant, for she would then have been well aware of the prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, including those foretelling His painful Passion and death.

This feast reminds us of our fundamental vocation, which is the call to holiness. We are all called to be holy.  Like Mary, our first and foremost mission in this life is to live our lives to the fullest. To live a holy life is a tall order but it is not impossible. It is through God’s grace that we can fulfill this vocation and mission. The Letter of Paul reminds us of this sublime reality: The grace of the Lord is enough for those who strive to live good and holy lives (cf. 2 Cor, 12:9).

May the Feast of the Presentation of Mary urge us all to strive to live our lives in fulfillment of this vocation to holiness. May the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary inspire us to always do the will of God even in difficult situations. Pray for us, dear Mother of God, so that we may remain faithful to the will of God and also be worthy bearers of the Word of Life.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and that we too shall become the temples of the living God!

Adapted from: Christ is Born: A Journey of Expectation, Preparation, and Fulfillment Office of Religious Education, Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, 2005
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