I am sure that most people are thinking about all the food that they are going to eat tomorrow, during one of the most popular holidays in America, Thanksgiving. However, along with all of the hype about tomorrow, today is very important feast day in the Catholic Church, celebrating the life of Mary. Today, is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Most parents, during Mary's time, had their child blessed before and after birth, but, for some Jews, that was not enough, and they had their child blessed during infancy. The child was consecrated by a priest in a temple, and, afterwards, the child would stay in rooms that were owned by the temple, assisting the priests with their duties.
The Bible containes no text concernign this feast of Mary. Instead, you have to refer to the apocryphal works, particularly the Protoevangel of St. James. After Anna was told by an angle that she was going to have a child, Mary, Anna dedicated Mary to the Lord. Supposedly, when she turned 3, Mary was brought to a temple that accepted only the best daughters of Israel. During ancient time, the age of three was seen as a time of transformation from infancy into childhood, because it was at this time that the child was weened and potty trained. Mary spent her youth in a type of holy retirement, disconnected from the corruption of the world. She exemplified the religious, interior life. Mary lived like this until she turned 14, when she was espoused to St. Joseph. The temple that Mary entered can be seen as a symbol for the Garden of Eden, and Mary's entrance into the temple, thus, symbolizes the entrance of the New Eve.
The feast of the Presentation of Mary most likely originated in Syria, which is where the apocryphal books originated. Just for some clarification, the apocryphal books were writings that contained information that was considered fraudulent, so they were not included in the canon, the books contained in the bible. The feast was introduced by a French nobleman, Philippe de Mazières, Chancellor of the King of Cyprus, who spent some time at Avignon during the pontificate of Gregory XI. It was taken up by many dioceses, but at the end of the Middle Ages, it was still missing in many calendars. In 1500, at Toledo it was assigned by Cardinal Ximenes to September 30th. Sixtus IV received it into the Catholic Rites, and Pius V struck it from the calendar, but Sixtus V took it up a second time. The date of celebration has changed, but the feast still continues today in the Catholic Church.
I found it interesting that the three feasts of the Birthday of Our Lady, the Holy Name of Mary, and her Presentation in the Temple correspond in the Marian cycle with the first three feasts of the cycle of feasts of our Lord: Christmas, the Holy Name of Jesus, and His Presentation in the Temple.
Mary gave up a large part of her life to the Lord. Take some time today to calm yourself in all of this holiday hype. Prepare yourself for the coming season of Advent.