33rd Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Presentation of Mary in the Temple
Today the Church commemorates the offering of a little girl, Mary, by her parents for service in the Temple. The New Testament does not mention the incident, because it does not refer to the childhood of Mary, but the early Christians wrote a good deal about her. One of these writings, the Proto-evangelium of James, tells how Joachim wanted to offer Mary when she was two years old, but Anna wanted to wait another year. And so it is said that when Mary was three years old, she was presented in the Temple at Jerusalem, where she was brought up by the high priest.
But the object of today’s feast is not so much the story of Mary’s entry into the Temple; it is more a celebration of Mary’s total consecration to God, her desire to serve God, and her search for the qualities that would prepare her to become the Mother of God. When she offered herself to the Lord without hesitation or any trace of self-will, she became a model for anyone who wants to follow the Lord.
Especially the men and women of the contemplative Orders honor the holiness of the Virgin Mary on this day, which celebrates her perfect consecration to God. She learned in the Temple how to become herself a temple of the Lord Jesus, and what was said of her in the first reading can also be said of all those who live a consecrated life: Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. The Lord came to dwell in Mary at his incarnation, when she became not only his mother, but the mother of all those who are in Christ.
Monks and all those who seek to do not their own will but the will of the Father in heaven, need a mother with a personal relationship with them to show them the way to the Father’s heart. That is where Mary comes in. She dedicated herself entirely to God, beginning her personal preparation with what we may call her novitiate in the Temple, and persevering in a deep interior life which will also be characteristic of Christ her Son, and of all those who are in Christ.
On today’s feast, the Church gives us an opportunity to acknowledge our need of Mary as our mother, and our gratitude for her example of a consecrated life. By receiving the Body and Blood of her Son, may we deepen our belonging to God, so that Mary, our mother, may one day present us in the Temple of the heavenly Jerusalem.