Origins and significance
The celebration of this feast dates back to the eighth century but earlier, in 543, November 21st had seen the dedication of the Church of Our Lady near the Temple in Jerusalem. Even in her childhood, Mary was obedient to God's will. Full of grace from the moment of her Immaculate Conception and inspired by the Holy Spirit, she consecrated herself to Him and His plan for our salvation. Today, with gratitude, we reflect upon her peerless generosity in her offering of herself in the Temple.
(Opening Prayer of the Feast)
"Eternal Father, we honour the holiness and glory of the Virgin Mary. May her prayers bring us the fullness of Your life and love."
From the readings for the Feast
First Reading: Zechariah 2:14-17
"Sing, rejoice, daughter of Zion; for I am coming to dwell in your midst.... The Lord will hold Judah as His portion in the Holy Land and again make Jerusalem His very own."
Gospel: Matthew 12:46-50
"Jesus was speaking to the crowds when His mother and brethren appeared; they were standing outside anxious to have a word with Him. But to the man who told Him this Jesus replied, 'Who is my mother? Who are my Brethren?' And stretching out His hand to His disciples He said, 'Here are my mother and my brethren. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother, and sister and mother."
"You are members of Christ's body and you are the body of Christ and this He says of you, 'Here are my mother and my brethren... We have a common heritage and Christ's heart of love would not be separated from us, though He is the only begotten. He will have us to be heirs of His Father and co-heirs with Himself. Mary by faith believed and by faith conceived, was chosen to bring forth salvation among men: by Christ created that Christ, in her, might be created, His disciple and His mother.
The Lord was journeying on and the crowds were following Him and this woman in the crowd cried out 'Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts You have sucked.' But they must not think blessedness lay only in bodily relationship so the Lord answered, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!... Christ the truth is in Mary's mind, Christ made flesh is in her womb."
(Sermon 25: 7-8. St Augustine, 354-430)
Companion To The Feasts Of Mary
Published by Catholic Truth Society
"God inspired in the heart of the pure Virgin Mary His own intense love for humility, and abhorrence of pride. She possessed, even from her infancy, a far greater horror of pride and ambition, and a far deeper love for humility than all the saints together. It was the first virtue that she practices. She abased and humbled herself before all. She esteemed herself, and would have been happy to be treated by others, as the last of the creatures. By marvellous radiance of her Immaculate Conception, she beheld herself susceptible to the guilt of the children of Adam, except that God miraculously preserved her, and she considered that she might have been capable of all the sins in the world, whose source is original sin. It was this humility which attracted to her the countless graces which rendered her worthy to be the Mother of God, Queen of heaven and earth.
Give thanks to Almighty God who resists the proud and gives grace to the humble, and offer Him all the glory that this Maiden accorded to His majesty by her practice of the richest humility during her childhood and throughout the rest of her life."
~ Saint. John Eudes ~
It celebrates the fact that the parents of Our Lady brought her to the Temple at the age of three and handed her over to live there for a long period as a virgin consecrated to the Temple, contemplating God exclusively.
Our Lady was the one chosen before time began, the Queen of Jesse from whom the Messiah would be born. The Temple was the only place in the Old Testament where sacrifices were offered to God. It represented, therefore, the only true religion. Our Lady being received at the Temple was the first step to the fulfilment of the promise that the Messiah would come to the true religion. It was the encounter of hope with reality. When she was received at the Temple, Our Lady entered the service of God. That is, a soul incomparably holy entered the service of God. At that moment, notwithstanding the decadence of the nation of Israel, and even though the Temple had been transformed into a den of Pharisees, the Temple was filled with an incomparable light that was the sanctity of Our Lady. It was in the Temple atmosphere that, without knowing it, she began to prepare herself to be the Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It was there that she increased her love of God until she formed the ardent desire for the imminent coming of the Messiah. It was there that she asked God the honor to be the maidservant of His Mother. She did not know that she was the one chosen by God. This is so true that she wondered about the meaning of the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel when he greeted her to ask her permission for the Incarnation. That preparation for Our Lady to be the Mother of Jesus Christ began with the Presentation at the Temple, the feast the Church celebrates on November 21.
We should ask for spiritual help to be better prepared to serve God as Our Lady did. But the best way to serve God is to serve Our Lady herself. So, on this feast day we should re-present ourselves before Our Lady, asking her to receive our offer of service and to give us her assistance in the task of our sanctification, just as the Holy Ghost helped her at the Temple of Jerusalem.
~ Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira ~