Presentation of Mary

Presentation of Mary

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (as it is known in the West), or The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (its name in the East), is a liturgical feast celebrated by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The feast is associated with an event recounted not in the New Testament, but in the apocryphal Infancy Narrative of James. According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne, who had been childless, received a heavenly message that they would bear a child. In thanksgiving for the gift of their daughter, they brought her, when still a child, to the Temple in Jerusalem to consecrate her to God. Mary remained in the Temple until puberty, at which point she was assigned to Joseph as guardian. Later versions of the story (such as the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew and the Gospel of the Nativity of Mary) tell us that Mary was taken to the Temple at around the age of 3 in fulfillment of a vow. Tradition held that she was to remain there to be educated in preparation for her role as Mother of God.

There is no evidence that Jewish parents ever presented their daughters to the Jewish Temple, much less that Judaism has ever possessed a tradition of consecrated Temple virgins.

The feast originated in that of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary the New, which was built in 543 near the site of the Temple. The basilica was destroyed, but the feast was celebrated throughout the East. Adopted in the papal chapel in Avignon in 1373, it was suppressed by Pope Pius V in 1568, and so does not appear in the Tridentine Calendar. Pope Sixtus V restored it in 1585. ["Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), pp. 108-109]

The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates it as one of its twelve Great Feasts, with the first documented celebration of the feast in any calendar being the mention of the "Εἴσοδος τῆς Παναγίας Θεοτόκου" (Entry of the All-Holy Theotokos - i.e. into the Temple) in the 11th-century Menology of the Eastern Roman (also known as Byzantine) emperor Basil II.

For the Roman Catholic Church, on the day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary "we celebrate that dedication of herself which Mary made to God from her very childhood under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who filled her with grace at her Immaculate Conception." ["Liturgy of the Hours", 21 November]

In the same Church, 21 November is also "Pro Orantibus" Day, a day of praying for cloistered religious "totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and concealment". [ [ Angelus Address of Pope Benedict XVI, 19 November 2006] ]

The Presentation in art

Western depictions usually focused on the lone figure of the young Mary climbing the steep steps of the Temple, having left her parents at the bottom, and climbing towards the Chief Priest and other Temple figures at the top of the steps. The Presentation was one of the usual scenes in larger cycles of the Life of the Virgin, although it was not usually one of the scenes shown in a Book of hours.


External links

* [ The Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple] Orthodox Icon and Synaxarion
* [ Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary] - Catholic Encyclopedia article

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