Of all the Marian feasts – the days on which we celebrate some particular aspect of Mary’s life – the Presentation of Mary is the one that resonates most in the hearts of parents. In a sense, it isn’t meant to honour Mary’s faith, which was perfect, but is rather a testament to the great faith of her parents, who were ordinary people like you and me.
We know that, among all women, Mary was uniquely suited to be the Mother of God. From the beginning of her life, she was immaculate – not only conceived without sin but also forever untouched by sin…a perfect soul. It’s difficult to say exactly what Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, understood about her. Because so much of her life was hidden, we must glean what we know about Mary from the writers of the Early Church, from those who were close to her or would have known her family.
Tradition tells us that Anne and Joachim had prayed for a child for many years. When their prayers were answered and Mary was born, they offered her back to God to serve at the Temple. She was their only child and yet we can imagine them saying, “Here, Lord, we give you our very best.”
Mary, for her part, was docile to their plans. When she confirmed the offering of her parents with her own “fiat,” we hear the words of surrender that she undoubtedly already felt in her heart. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be it to me according to your word.”3
As she grew in body and spirit, Mary was being made into a temple the likes of which the world had never known – one not made by human hands, but formed by God himself.1 This temple would miraculously contain He who cannot be contained,the Creator of the Universe.2 Temples of stone can be destroyed. Indeed, the Temple of Jerusalem was built and destroyed two times. But when God created Mary, He made the perfect temple to hold and nurture His Son. Like Mary, we must come to see our bodies as temples – a “dwelling place for God in the Spirit.”3 Only then will we understand our inherent dignity and worth and discover God’s plan for us.
We see then that the Lord will do great things with our lives – and with those of our children – when we entrust them to Him. We will never know if Anne and Joachim had a sense of God’s plans for their little girl when they presented her at the temple. But they lovingly and generously offered her life to the Lord, trusting that He loved her even more than they did.
If we look closely, we see that there is a beautiful symmetry between Mary’s life and that of Jesus: she was most pure; she was dedicated to God from the very beginning; she was poor and humble; she was humiliated in being found pregnant before she was married; and she was pierced (in her soul). In fact, three feasts of Mary – her birth (Birth of the Virgin Mary), the Holy Name of Mary, and her Presentation in the Temple – correspond in the Marian cycle with the first three feasts of our Lord – Christmas, the Holy Name of Jesus, and His Presentation in the Temple.5
This, then, is the path of all Christians – surrendering our lives to God so that we may be His instruments of love and mercy in the world. In this way, we also join in His saving work! Though flawed and imperfect, we nonetheless strive for perfection, relying on God’s grace to complete whatever is lacking in us. We are not alone in this endeavour as Mary, our Mother, wants to walk beside us. She is the perfect model and guide. Though His mother, she emulated and followed Christ in all things. And like her, we have been given the Holy Spirit, the “finger of God”6 within us, to point the way.
– Kelley Holy
2 Cf. 2 Chronicles 6:18
3 Ephesians 2:22
4 Luke 1:38
6 Cf. Veni Creator Spiritus, a prayer to the Holy Spirit.