Thursday, November 21, 2002

21 NOVEMBER

. . . .is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Sacred Scripture contains no text concerning the event commemorated in today’s liturgy. For something of a historical background one may consult the apocryphal works, particularly the Protoevangel of St. James (ch. 4:1ff). After an angel had revealed her pregnancy, Anna is said to have vowed her future child Mary to the Lord. Soon after birth the infant was brought to the sacred precincts at which only the best of Israel’s daughters were admitted. At the age of three she was transferred to the temple proper (7:2). Here she was reared like a dove and received her nourishment from the hand of an angel. (8:1). Thus legend.

In the East, where the feast, celebrated since the eighth century, is kept as a public holiday, it bears the name, “The Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple.” It was introduced at Rome by a Cypriotic legate to the papal court of Avignon in 1371. In 1472, Sixtus IV extended its observance to the whole Church. Abolished by Pius V, it was reintroduced some years later (1585). –from “The Church’s Year of Grace”, vol. V, Pius Parsch.

Parsch also give the old third nocturn lesson for this feast, which is taken from St. John Damascene:

Joachim married Anna, a most excellent and praiseworthy woman. Once there had lived another Anna who overcome physical sterility through prayer and a promise to God, and then gave birth to Samuel. In a similar way our Anna received from God the Mother of God through a vow and heartfelt petition; for she would not yield in any way to the illustrious women of previous ages. Accordingly grace (for the word Anna means grace) gave birth to the Lady (this is signified by the name Mary). Truly Mary became the Lady above all creation in her role as the Mother of the Creator.

She was born in Joachim’s house near the Probatica, and was presented in the temple. Thereupon ‘planted in the house of God’ and nurtured by His Spirit, like a fruitful olive tree she flowered forth in every virtue. From her mind she drove every worldly or sensual desire; she preserved virginity of soul as well as of body, as was becoming to one destined to carry God in her very bosom.

The second reading in the current Liturgia Horarum for this feast can be found at the bottom of this page. It's taken from St. Augustine. (The real one.)