Memorial of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary
(Zechariah 2: 14-17, Matthew 12: 46-50)
Today’s feast stems from an ancient tradition. According to the legend, Joachim and Anna brought their three-year-old daughter to the Temple in Jerusalem to present her to the Lord. As soon as her feet touched the steps leading to the temple, she ran to the door where the high priest took her hand and led her inside. There, she was to remain while she prepared herself to become the new temple where the Son of the Most High would dwell.
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away with me” (Song 2:10). She who was full of grace from the moment of her conception heard the call of her beloved and with total abandon, she ran to his loving embrace. Even as a child, Mary knew herself to be the beloved handmaid of the Lord. “I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me” (Song 7:10). Once she entered the Temple precincts, she found a resting place close to the heart of God. “His left hand is under my head and with his right hand he caresses me” (Song 2:6).
Today’s celebration brings to mind the account of Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli. “Excuse me, sir. Do you remember me? I am the woman you saw standing here, praying to the Lord. I asked him for this child, and he gave me what I asked for. So, I am dedicating him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he will belong to the Lord” (1 Sam. 1:26-28). Mary’s Presentation in the Temple sparks our Christian imagination: We see the unfolding of God’s grace as we watch the maiden from Nazareth humbly and wholeheartedly surrendered herself to God’s loving embrace.
When Mary, who is the glory of the chosen people (CF Jud.15:10), climbed the steps to the dwelling of the Most High, she signaled the coming of the time when God would ‘stir from his heavenly dwelling’ and be present to humanity in a new and unimaginable way. She who entered the temple of Jerusalem would herself become a living temple prepared for the Eternal Word.
The first school of faith is the home. Joachim and Anna were pious, observant Jews. According to Jewish tradition, they made their home a place where their daughter could grow in faith and the love of God. Mary’s parents created a safe harbor, a place of peace where her vocation took root in her heart, an environment of prayer and reverence where she could hear the Word of God, learn to worship in spirit and truth and acquire an exquisite charity, a love for others. Mary learned to trust in God’s promise of salvation and to live in faithful expectation that those promises would be fulfilled. In consecrating herself to the Almighty, the Blessed Virgin gave herself entirely to Him without any reservation.
The most pure Temple of the Savior, the precious Chamber, and Virgin, the Sacred Treasure of the Glory of God, is presented today to the house of the Lord. She brings with her the grace of the Spirit, which the angels of God do praise. Truly this woman is the Abode of Heaven! (Kontakion).