The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
By Fr Francis Xavier Weninger SJ (1805-1888) (Excrrpt)
Today’s Festival is called the Presentation of Mary, because on this day, Joachim and Anna, the holy parents of the Blessed Virgin, Consecrated their little daughter to the Divine service in the temple at Jerusalem and Mary Consecrated herself to the Almighty.
At that time, there were two ways of Consecrating children – one was ordained by the law, which required every male child to be offered to God, forty days and every female child, eighty days after its birth. This ceremony was called the Consecration of the child and the purification of the mother.
The second kind of Consecration was a voluntary self-oblation by which some persons devoted themselves to the Almighty. There were also many parents who, either before, or immediately after their child’s birth, Consecrated it to the service of the Lord, sometimes for a few years, sometimes for life. To this end, several separate dwellings had been erected near the Temple, for men, women, youths and maidens, where they remained for the time which had been fixed by themselves or their parents.
Their occupations consisted in decorating the temple and in making the garments which the priests and levites wore during their sacred functions. Thus we read in the first book of Kings, that Anne the spouse of Elkana, made a vow that if she gave birth to a male child, she would Consecrate him to the Lord. The Lord blessed her and she brought forth a son, whom she named Samuel and afterwards, Consecrated to the Most High, through the hands of the High Priest, Heli. In the second book of the Maccabees, we find mention of virgins, who lived and were educated in the Temple, that is, in a building annexed to it.
t is the belief of several holy Fathers, that Joachim and Anna, being already advanced in years and having no issue, made a vow to God that if He would bless them with a child and thus, take from them, the dishonour of being barren, they would Consecrate their offspring to His service in the Temple.
God heard their prayer and blessed them so greatly that they became the parents of the most holy of all human beings, Mary, the ever Blessed Virgin. For three years they kept this sacred treasure at home, after which time, although Mary was their only comfort, they resigned her with pious fortitude, in fulfilment of their vow. Hence they went, with their daughter, to Jerusalem, presented her to the priest in the Temple and Consecrated her, through his hands, to the service of the Almighty.
Practical Considerations of this Feast:
In the third year of her life, Mary, the Blessed Virgin, consecrated herself to the service of the Almighty and this, not for days or years only but forever, for, as long as she lived, she ceased not to serve the Lord.
How is it with you? Did you also begin in your tender years to serve the Lord. Or to whom did you dedicate the years of your life? Ah! confess it with weeping eyes and repentant heart, not to the Lord but to the world, to the flesh, to Satan, you gave the years of your youth and, perhaps you have not even made the resolution to serve your God. Or it maybe, you think it will be time enough, when you are old, although it is unknown to you, whether you will ever count many years. But even had you been assured of this, tell me, do you not deserve to be disowned by the Almighty as a second Cain, since like him, you sacrificed only what was of less value and not, like the pious Abel, what was the best? God cursed him who took from his flock the meanest for his offering. This Curse you also deserve, for not having given to the Lord, your first and best years but reserving your old age for Him.
Oh! truly you have reason to weep over this wickedness as long as you live. Humbly beg God to pardon you and resolve, at the same time, to serve Him from this hour most fervently and without ceasing, until your end, as the Blessed Virgin did. You have perhaps but a short time more, hence employ every moment in the service of God. The benefit will be yours and will last through all eternity.
In Consecrating herself to the Almighty, the Blessed Virgin gave herself entirely to Him without any reservation. Soul and body, every power of her soul, every member of her body, her whole heart and life, all was given forevermore to the service of the Most High. Doubtless you resolve today to serve your Lord most fervently for the future. Consecrate yourself, then, today to His service but without any reservation, your whole heart, your entire life, your soul with all its powers, your entire body with all its members, sacrifice all willingly and for vermore to the Lord. God Who desires the whole heart and not a part of it, wishes also your whole soul, your whole body, your entire life.
Do you wish to divide your heart and to give one part of it to the Almighty the other to the world and Satan? To serve God with one member of your body, and to offend Him with another? Do you wish to employ your memory to honour God with good thoughts but to soil your will with wicked desires? Oh! then do not imagine that your sacrifice will be acceptable to God. It will rather be a horror in the eyes of Him Who commands us to serve Him alone, and to sacrifice everythying to His service. Make today, a perfect sacrifice, so that you may, at least in something, follow the Blessed Virgin. And take care that you do not, after the lapse of some time, retract your sacrifice.
You Consecrate, today, your eyes, your tongue,and your hands, with the intention to use them only in God’s service. Guard yourself, lest, after some hours or days, you misuse them in offending the Lord, for, this would be as much robbing the Altar of what you have given to the Most High. Mary did not act thus. It is written: “I am the Lord that hate robbery in a holocaust,” (Isa lxi.)