Presentation of Mary in the Temple
The offering which Mary made of herself to God was prompt, without delay; entire, without reserve.
“THERE never has been, and there never will be, any offering of a pure creature greater and more perfect than that which Mary made to God, being yet only a child of three years, when she presented herself in the temple to offer him, not spices, nor calves, nor talents of gold, but her whole self as a perfect holocaust, consecrating herself as a perpetual victim in his honor. Well did she understand the voice of God, which even then called her to dedicate herself wholly to his love, with these words: Arise, make haste, my love, and come: “Surge, propera, arnica mea, et veni” (Song of Songs 2:10). And therefore her Lord would have her from thenceforth forget her country, her parents, and every thing, to attend to nothing but to love and please him: “Hearken, oh daughter, and see and incline thy ear; and forget thy people and thy father’s house” (Psalm 45:11). And she at once obeyed promptly the divine voice. Let us consider, then, how acceptable to God was this offering which Mary made of herself, as she presented herself promptly and entirely to him; promptly without delay; entirely with out reserve…
“Mary offered herself to God promptly. From the first moment when this heavenly infant was sanctified in the womb of her mother (which was at the first moment of her Immaculate Conception), she received the perfect use of reason, that she might from thenceforth begin to merit, as the Doctors universally agree; and one of them, Father Suarez, says, that as the most perfect mode by which God sanctifies a soul is its sanctification by its own merits, as St. Thomas teaches, so it is to be believed that the blessed Virgin has been thus sanctified. And if this privilege was granted to the angels and to Adam, as the angelic Doctor says, much more should we believe that it was granted to the divine mother, on whom we cannot doubt that God, having deigned to make her his mother, conferred greater gifts than on all other creatures, as the same Doctor teaches. From her he received his human nature, hence before all others she must have obtained from Christ the fullness of grace; for, being mother, as Father Suarez says, she has a certain peculiar right to all the gifts of her Son. And as, by the hypostatic union, Jesus must, of right, have the fullness of all graces; thus by the divine maternity, it was meet that Jesus should confer on Mary, as a natural debt, greater graces than those bestowed on all the other saints and angels.
“Thus, from the beginning of her life, Mary knew God, and knew him so well, that no tongue, as the angel declared to St. Bridget, shall suffice to tell how the intellect of the holy Virgin clearly saw God in the first moment she knew him. And even in that first moment of light by which she was illuminated, she offered herself wholly to her Lord, dedicating herself entirely to his love and glory, as the angel continued to say to St. Bridget: “At once our queen resolved to sacrifice her will to God, with all her love, for the whole time of her life; and no one can understand how completely her will submitted itself then to embrace all things pleasing to him.”
“Yet, when the immaculate infant understood afterwards that her holy parents, Joachim and Anna, had promised to God, even by a vow, as various authors relate, that if he should grant them a child, it should be consecrated to his service in the temple; for it was an ancient custom of the Jews to place their children in cells which were near the temple, that there they might be properly educated, as we learn from Baronius, Nicephorus, Cedrenus, and Suarez, as also from Josephus, the Jewish historian, St. John Damascene, St. Gregory of Nicomedia, St. Anselm, and St. Ambrose… When Mary knew of this vow, as I have before said, she wished solemnly to offer and consecrate herself to God, by presenting herself in the temple, as Germanus asserts, and also St. Epiphanius, who says, that when she was hardly three years old she was presented in the temple, at an age when children have the greatest desire for the assistance of their parents, and need it the most. She was even the first to entreat her parents earnestly that they would take her to the temple, to fulfill their promise; and her holy mother, Anna, as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, did not delay to bring her there, and offer her to God.
“And behold, Joachim and Anna, generously sacrificing to God what was dearest to them on earth, set out from Nazareth, carrying by turns, in their arms, their beloved little daughter, who could not walk so great a distance as was that from Nazareth to Jerusalem, a journey, as several authors assert, of eighty miles. They thus went on their way, accompanied by only a few of their relations, but by hosts of angels, as St. George of Nicomedia asserts, who attended and ministered to the immaculate Virgin, as she went to dedicate herself to the Divine Majesty. How beautiful are thy steps, oh prince’s daughter! “Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui, filia principis”. Oh, how beautiful, how pleasing to God, as the angels sung, are thy steps, as thou goest to offer thyself to him, oh great and chosen daughter of our common Lord! God himself on that day, says Bernardino de Bustis, celebrated a great feast with the whole celestial court, when he beheld his spouse conducted to the temple. For he never saw a creature more holy and more beloved offering herself to him. Go, then, said St. Germanus, Archbishop of Constantinople, go, oh queen of the world, oh mother of God, go joyfully to the house of the Lord, to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit that will make thee mother of the eternal World.”
Editor’s Note: This excerpt is from “The Glories of Mary” by Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787), Doctor of the Church and a patron saint of confessors. Part II can be found by clicking here.
Art for this post on the Presentation of Mary in the Temple: Madonna painted by Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori, saint, St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, circa 1718, PD-US copyright term of life 100 years or less; Modified Presentation of Virgin Mary in the the Madonna del Carmine chapel, in santa Maria del Carmine church, Camillo Procaccini (circa 1555-1629), Giovanni Dall’Orto, January 3 2008, retouched, derived work; the copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted; Alfonso Maria de Liguori, unknown author, unknown date, CCA-SA; all Wikimedia Commons.