This coming Wednesday, November 21, is the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (in the Temple) and that is why today’s “Mondays with Mary” is dedicated to this important date in the liturgical calendar.
As stated by tradition, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a child around the age of three, was brought to the Temple and presented before the Lord. This celebration has its origin in an Eastern Rite of the Catholic Church (more than likely Syria). It seems from Church writings that the feast begin somewhere between the 7th-11th centuries in the East. It has its celebration origins in the Latin Church sometime during the 14th century and around the time of the Avignon Papacy. In Greek circles, the feast is known as the Entrance of the Blessed Virgin Mary into the Temple. It is believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary also during this day entered the Holy of Holies, being the first woman to ever do so. Some will disagree with that last statement; however, this memorial is to show the Blessed Virgin Mary’s dedication to the service of God and complete and total obedience to his will. Even as a small child, the Blessed Mother knew how important it was to be aligned with the will of God.
I draw upon St. Francis de Sales, one of thirty-five Doctors of the Church to assist in our understanding and reflection of this important day in the life of the Blessed Mother and the Church she would eventually protect. The excerpts below are from a sermon given by St. Francis on November 21, 1617 –
“Similarly, never was “so much perfume” and ointment offered to God in His Temple as the most holy Virgin brought with her on this day. Never until then had the Divine Majesty received so excellent and pleasing a gift as the offering He received from the blessed St. Joachim and St. Anne. They went to Jerusalem to fulfill the vow they had made to God to dedicate their glorious child to Him in the Temple, where young maidens were brought up for the service of the Divine Majesty.”
“Do you not see that our glorious Lady was longing to see the day when her parents would offer to God, for it is true that she had the use of reason from the time of her Conception?…Moreover, the holy Virgin and her glorious Son, Our Lord, had the use of reason from their mother’s wombs and were, consequently, endowed with much knowledge. Nevertheless, they concealed it under the law of profound silence.”
“Oh, my God, how I wish I could adequately picture to myself the sweetness and consolation of this trip from St. Joachim’s home to the Temple of Jerusalem! What contentment this little child displayed in seeing that the long-awaited hour had finally come! Those who went to the Temple to adore and offer gifts to the Divine Majesty sang all along the way. The royal prophet David composed a psalm expressly for this purpose, and Holy Church has us say it every day in the Divine Office: “Beati immaculati in via” [Ps. 119] – “Happy are they whose way is blameless,” who walk in Your way, Lord, without stain of sin. “In Your Way” – that is to say, in the observance of Your commandments.”
St. Francis de Sales continues his sermon by explaining how we, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, must make vows and be obedient to them as we walk this earth. Religious Orders take a variety of vows during their discernment period until they profess final vows. They will also renew these vows on a yearly basis. St. Francis de Sales says speaking of his own vows, “This commemoration of our vows is made principally to strengthen our fervor, to renew our promises, and to reaffirm our good resolutions.”
For us as Christians, dedication to God begins at the Sacrament of Baptism and continues throughout our Sacramental life. Baptism is the day that we are first dedicated to God. St. Francis says that our birthday is not as important as our Baptismal day, because at our birth we are children of Adam and without grace, but on the day of our Baptism we are filled with God’s grace. Bishop James S. Wall, Diocese of Gallup (NM) once said in a homily, parents and children should celebrate the Baptismal Day by lightening the candle that was given to them on that day just as they celebrate their birthday with candles. He continued by saying the day of our Baptism is the day we are welcomed into God’s family – the Church.
We must be humble, obedient, and always open to God’s will in our lives, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was from the day of her presentation in the Temple. Let us pray that through her loving and motherly embrace, we may come to know Jesus Christ through the Sacramental life as deeply as she knew Him when she carried Him in her immaculate body.