A Marian Feast for November: The Presentation in the Temple

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I love the month of November. It is heralded by Halloween night, when the earnest trick-or-treaters arrive at the door, the cold air wafting in with giggles and shouts, while parents smile sheepishly at a distance. When morning light comes, November arrives with the feast of All Saints Day. The Church celebrates the victory of the Saints, who triumph through Christ over every darkness and even death. I love the contrast, between the cold outside and the warmth inside, between the darkness of the night and the light of the following morning. Then comes All Souls Day when we remember our loved ones who have died. We think of their lives, pray for them, and wonder how they see things from their new shining vantage point. Toward the end of November we cap it all off with Thanksgiving.  We celebrate God’s largess and blessings to us,  giving thanks for our families and our friends. The table is a symbol of the abundance of blessings we have been given.

Tucked into the warmth and celebrations of November  is a feast of Mary. It is called The Presentation. Unlike many other Marian feasts, it is not a celebration connected with a mystery of the Lord, and there is no source in Scripture for it. Instead, the Presentation is based on a tradition. It commemorates the dedication of a Church in Jerusalem. The Church, called St. Mary, was built in honor of a long-held story among Christians, that Mary was offered to the Lord at the temple by her parents, Anne and Joachim. At Evening Prayer on this feast day, we pray:

Holy Mother of God, Mary ever-Virgin, you are the temple of the Lord and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Beyond all others you were pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ.

This feast gives me such consolation. I imagine Anne and Joachim, offering thanks for this miracle baby, this girl they knew had a special role in the work of God to save. We each have our own childhood history and purpose to offer to God. We each have our childhood innocence, a time when everything about us was pleasing to God. Mary, “beyond all others” pleasing to God, is a sign that we can all please God and be a holy offering to God. As the French Carmelite, Therese of Lisieux said, when we do everything with great love, it is not hard to please the good God.

Like the other, amazing days of celebration in November, this one is warm, encouraging and hopeful. We are—all of us—temples of God like Mary, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In Mary, we were all present, as her children, being offered in the moment of her presentation, as part of the New Creation in Christ. Even as we begin the part of coldest winter, we have the greatest of hope.

Prayer: Mary, help us to remember that, in your Son, we are already holy offerings to the Father, for God looks at us with the tenderness of a mother, and calls us closer by inspiring us to continually seek his face. Amen

Copyright 2011 Julie Paavola

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