Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Presenting The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"And he set Her down on the third step of the altar ... and (Mary) danced with her feet and all the House of Israel loved Her."
-from the Protoevangelium of James

Today's feast is NOT the celebration of the Fourth Joyful Mystery, but rather Mary's own Presentation in the Temple. While Jewish parents were obliged to dedicate their first born sons to God, it seems that a similar custom developed with certain very religious Jewish parents of girls, of which Sts. Joachim and Anne certainly qualify.

In fact, much of what we "know" about this feast is found in the apocryphal gospels, and probably because of this it wasn't given a day in the Universal Church until Sixtus V did so in 1585, although the feast (known there as the Entrance of the All-Holy Mother of God into the Temple) did exist in the East since at least the Eighth Century. As the story goes in the Protoevangelium of James, Mary was brought to the temple at the astonishingly early age of three not just to be dedicated, but to be left there and educated. Here we pick up the Protevangelium's rather fantastic account:

"And the child was three years old ... and they went up into the Temple of the Lord, and the priest received her and kissed her and blessed her, saying, 'The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest his redemption to the sons of Israel.' And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her, and she danced with her feet and all the house of Israel loved her. And her parents went down marveling, and praising the Lord as if she were a dove that dwelt there."

While this story of course cannot be taken as gospel, there is no reason to doubt that Mary realized Her special place at an early age, and this early "education" might not have been totally out of the question. Furthermore, the fact that The Presentation of Mary has been a subject of countless church artists from Giotto, Ghirlandaio, Titian and Tintoretto, also suggests this account is at least somewhat historically based. In any event, as the Fighting Irish squad prepares to enter the temple of Troy (the Los Angeles Coliseum that is), let us hope they take this wisdom of Our Lady with them; so they too may be dancing with joy when their date with destiny is over.

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