The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

By Kimberly Bruce

Falling as it does just before Thanksgiving, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple (Nov. 21) is easily overlooked and, in fact, not well known by most Catholics, perhaps because the source material is not holy scripture.

It is held by tradition in the Catholic Church that the Virgin Mary was presented by her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne, to the Temple in Jerusalem at a very early age. This entrance into the Temple, as well as any information we have concerning Mary’s parents, is mentioned in most Greek menologies (Church calendars) and in apocryphal (non-canonical) literature, including the Protoevangelium of James.

Consecration to God
Saint Anne, tradition holds, suffered great shame in her day due to her inability to bear a child. Upon becoming pregnant as a much older woman, St. Anne consecrated her child to God in service to the Temple as a way of thanking Him. Though this may sound unusual to us, this was not an uncommon practice in their day, and it can be compared to those who consecrate themselves to God today via the ministerial priesthood or as men and women religious.

We gain some food for meditation regarding the early life of Mary from Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), a nun, stigmatist, and mystic who experienced visions of Mary’s life. Her visions, while not all helpful as history, still usefully reflect the love and devotion of Bl. Anne, and so are profitable for our spiritual reading.

In her book, The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich, Bl. Anne describes Mary being brought to the Temple at the tender age of three by Joachim and Anne. There, Mary attended the priests and Levites in the sacred ministry of the temple along with other consecrated virgins for several years until her betrothal to Joseph. It was there that she, as well, continued to receive her education from older temple women in whose care she had been placed.

So holy was the little Virgin that Bl. Anne saw Mary eat “only to live” taking “no other food except that which she had vowed to eat,” having willingly sacrificed, of her own volition, very much by way of food upon her acceptance into the Temple apartments.

Blessed Anne said that Mary possessed “an unceasing longing for redemption” in anticipation of the promised Messiah, saying that she would rise each night from bed in prayer often praying to become “the lowliest maidservant of the Mother of the Redeemer.”

Being so privy to the life of Mary on account of her visions, Bl. Anne stated:

The Blessed Virgin’s significance cannot have been quite unknown to the priests. Her whole being, the abundance of grace in her, and her wisdom were so remarkable from her childhood in the Temple onwards that they could not be entirely concealed in spite of her great humility. I saw aged holy priests filling great scrolls with writing about her.

Ten Evangelical Virtues
The virtues evidenced within Mary described by Bl. Anne correspond to the Ten Evangelical Virtues of Mary contained within the Marian Fathers’ Rule of Life, present since the congregation’s inception in 1670. Our Lady is:

  1. Most Pure
  2. Most Prudent
  3. Most Humble
  4. Most Faithful
  5. Most Devout
  6. Most Obedient
  7. Most Poor
  8. Most Patient
  9. Most Merciful
  10. Most Sorrowful

These virtues are important, not only for the Marians, but for all Christians to emulate. One early Marian, Ven. Casimir Wyszynski (1700-1755), said that those wishing to stay under Mary’s protection “should exercise the evangelical virtues,” and then they will be sure to follow Mary’s example.

As Marian Founder St. Stanislaus Papczynski (1631-1701) tells us:

You should beseech and seek God’s blessing through nobody else, [except] through the Rebecca of the New Testament, [that is] God’s Mother, the most holy Virgin. . . Commit to her all your needs with a perfect disposition of submission and trust, not doubting that they will turn out in the best way. Learn also to take refuge in her in the case of your doubts, anxieties and difficulties, and to give continuous thanks to the Lord, that He chose her and made [her] a Mother for Himself and an advocate for us.

On the Feast of Mary’s Presentation in the Temple, let us remember to call upon the Blessed Virgin in all our needs, strive to imitate her evangelical virtues, and follow her example of complete trust and surrender to God.

Image: AdobeStock
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JYMY

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