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The Great Feasts: The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

November 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

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The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

 

Troparion

Today is the preview of the good will of God, Of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.  The Virgin appears in the temple of God, In anticipation proclaiming Christ to all.  Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, 0 Divine Fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

Kontakion

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, Therefore, the angels of God praise her: “Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.”

 

The three year old Mary is presented by her parents Joachim and Anna in the temple where she is received by Zachariah the high priest, who, filled with the spirit is moved to exclaim “Mary, the Lord God has magnified your name to all generations and, by you, to the very end of time, the Lord will show His Redemption to the children of Israel.” Several other virgins can be seen in the icon. They accompanied Mary into the Temple as they have been her attendants.  They all each hold a candle and wool of different colors with which to spin and weave. Mary carries wool of a royal purple that will become the veil of the temple. Mary subsequently ascends a seven-stepped stairway on top of which she is fed by angels.

That which is known about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple is found in the Apocrypha, principally in chapter seven of the Protoevangelium of James, which has been dated by historians prior to the year 200 AD.1 By the ninth century, it is celebrated in the monasteries of southern Italy which had been influenced by the traditions of the Byzantine churches, and by the fourteenth century, it had spread to England. However it was not until 1472 that Pope Sixtus IV extended its celebration to the Western church. 2

Growing up in the Temple:3

Her physical appearance was described as beautiful and cheerful. No one ever saw her angry nor heard her speak evil and all her conversations were full of grace. She was anxious also about her companions (the other young virgins) that they might not sin even in one word or raise their voice in senselessness or act proud before their parents. Mary guarded herself carefully that she might not even inadvertently offend or appear proud before her peers. Thus, even as a young teenager, she gave the impression of one many times her age and was steadfast, immovable and unchangeable in her desire for the things of God.

Mary’s early years in the Temple were spent primarily in prayer and wool-work (weaving, etc.). From daylight to 9:00 a.m. she spent in prayer; from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. she spent doing her weaving; and from 3:00 p.m. until bedtime she returned to prayer. Even in her early years, she became well known as an excellent weaver surpassing old experienced women. Later as a young teenager, she and some other similarly skilled virgins were commissioned to spin the special thread for the new veil for the Holy of Holies that would separate the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

Early sources state that Mary spent a lot of her time in the Holy of Holies in prayers. (The Holy of Holies of the Second Temple may have been incomplete and its veil may not have been installed yet). She lived very much like her nephew John the Baptist who was to be born a few years later and she ate just one meal per day. The additional food given her by the priests, she gave to the poor. Angels were recorded as visiting her regularly and sometimes bringing her food, just as an angel brought Elijah food on several occasions (1 Kings 19:5-8).

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1 http://www.ststhanasius.org/media/files/bible_studies/Study_11_21_08.pdf 

2 http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/Nov21.html. 

3 http://www.ststhanasius.org/media/files/bible_studies/Study_11_21_08.pdf 

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7 Responses to “The Great Feasts: The Presentation of Mary in the Temple”

  1. avatar Nerina says:

    Fascinating, Bernie. I can’t wait to hear more.

  2. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Help me with my ignorance. Is the Protoevangelium of James afirmed by the Church as autentic? There were many “false gospels” writen but you don’t hear of this one. Thanks.

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    Richard Thomas: It is not part of the Canon of Scripture if that is what you are asking but is ‘authentic’ in the sense that the Church considers it a worthy document of extra-biblical information. It is not a ‘false gospel.’

    More capsule information on the Protoevangelium of James here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_James

    You can do a search on ‘false gospels’ for more info on that concept.

  4. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    Thanks. I have read portions of the “Poem of the Man God” and there is a description of amsry in the temple.

    But upon googling your source, I read the following statement:

    This is also the earliest text that explicitly claims that Joseph was a widower, with children, at the time that Mary is entrusted to his care. This feature is mentioned in the text of Origen, who adduces it to demonstrate that the ‘brethren of the Lord’ were sons of Joseph by a former wife.[5] Since the text was among those that “…are to be avoided by catholics” according to Gelasian Decree, its dismissal may be due[citation needed] in part to this reading of the adelphoi, which corresponded to the developed Eastern Orthodox view rather than the western, i.e., Roman Catholic, view, which treated them as cousins.

    Just food for thought.

  5. avatar Bernie says:

    Good point!
    These are not inspired texts and therefore not entirely trustworthy but they can be helpful in other ways, especially as aids to contemplation. The icons are products of the East and therefore reflect Eastern interpretations. Today, we tend not to consider the difference between a step-brother and a cousin as a serious flash point (at least I don’t); neither the East or West consider the texts as inspired and so we ‘appreciate’ them without taking them as ‘gospel.’ It’s an interesting topic and I’m glad you raised it. Thank you.

  6. avatar Raymond F. Rice says:

    I was impressed with the fact that Mary’s mother and father presented her for temple service. It must have been difficult to give up such a lovely little girl.

  7. avatar Richard Thomas says:

    From what little I know, and referencing what was written in the “Poem of the Man God”, the purpose of mary going to the temple was to provide candadates to be the bride of the Messiah who was going to come at that moment in time. It just was not a wish the Messiah would come but there was a strong sense the time of the Messiah was here.

    Quite a difference 33 years later. The messiah DID come but in spite of all the efforts made by the temple elders, these elders rejected Him.


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