The Feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple - November 21
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Lk. 10, 38-42; 11, 27-28)
The commemoration of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is on 21st November. It has been kept at least from the 7th century in the Eastern church tradition. Emperor Justinian built a splendid church dedicated to Mary in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was dedicated on November 21, 543 but was destroyed by the Persians within a century. Many of the early church Fathers such as St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople and St. John Damascene, his contemporary, preached magnificent homilies
on this feast referring to Mary as that special plant or flower which was being nurtured for better things. “She was planted in the House of God, nourished by the Holy Spirit and kept her body and soul spotless to receive God in her bosom. He Who is all-holy rests among the holy.”
In the Byzantine Church this feast is considered one of the twelve great feasts of the liturgical year, called the Dodecaorton. By the 9th century it is celebrated in the monasteries of southern Italy which had been influenced by the traditions of the Byzantine churches, and by the 14th C. it had spread to England. However it was not until 1472 that Pope Sixtus IV extended its celebration to the Western church. The source for the presentation is the Protoevangelium of James. Like Hannah, Anna has promised that any child she had would be offered as a gift to the Lord and presented in the Temple to serve Him.
Tradition tells us that the Anna and Joachim took Mary to the Temple when she was three years old. In the icon for this day the high priest Zachariah in his robes greets Mary and her parents at the doorsteps of the Temple. Behind Zachariah is the veil of the temple hiding the ark of the covenant. Mary is on the first step, and he takes her through the veil. From now onwards she will be the living ark. So in the scene in the upper right corner of the icon Mary is seated in the place of honor where only the ark should rest, alone as though in anticipation of the same throne where in more familiar icons she will be holding the Christ child on her knees. Her parents are in the outer courtyard making the traditional offering, but the whole focus is on the child who in the main part of the icon is stretching out her arms in willingness to perform whatever duties the Lord has entrusted with her. Mary is accompanied by twelve virgins carrying their lamps. Zachariah is shown to be both priest and prophet, for he sees what God intends for her.
Her name will be blessed by all generations, and through her redemption will be revealed.Mary served in the Temple where she was fed miraculously by the angels until she was twelve. Then Zachariah, prompted by the message of an angel, betrothed her to a widower who had been chosen by the Lord: Holy Joseph.
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