Friday, November 21, 2008

The Presentation of Mary

I was helping out at our local ConQuest boys' club meeting on Thursday, when I looked at the calendar and noted that today is the Memorial of the Presentation of Mary. I had heard of it before, but I didn't realize that there was actually a day set aside for it in the Church calendar. My prayer book says this:

This feast commemorates the dedication of the church of Saint Mary which was built in Jerusalem near the site of the Temple. With Christians of the East, the Latin Church also recalls on this day the tradition according to which Mary as a small child was presented to the Lord by her parents in the Temple.

I wasn't completely satisfied with this answer, so I checked the Catechism, Radio Replies, and Catholic Replies. Finally, I decided to just go to the original source, the Protoevangelium of James:

And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her.
There's a reason that the Church didn't include this stuff in the canon of scripture. It might be interesting, but it's not reliable. And yet, the Church recognizes the memorial of the event, and she recognizes Sts. Anne and Joachim as the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to assume that some of the content of this particular apocryphal book might be true, but that some of it is not. If I can't tell the difference, and it all sounds a little hokey, I think that it's best for me to stay away from it. I'm going to stick with the canonical books, which contain all of the public revelation necessary for my salvation.

1 comment:

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Some things about Proto-Gospel:

1) it is held in high esteem by the Orthodox;
2) the Presentation part is confirmed by the Feast of the Church
3) the part saying St Joseph was a widower is not doctrinally defined as dogma, but anyway probable.

This last point may be illustrated as follows: women were very rarely called "Blessed" in the Old Testament.

Now, the two "blessed among women" with some further qualification which distinguish them from the Blessed Virgin who is called so without qualification had defeated Sisera and Holophernes, and figuratively mean that the Blessed Virgin has defeated Satan.

The two who were just called "blessed" were Abaigail and Ruth.

Abigail, because she held back King David from killing a man, likewise the Blessed Virgin often holds back the wrath of God Her Son who is Davidic King.

Ruth, because she had decided to pass over younger men and become the wife of an old man.

So, presumably St Joseph was an old man, as the Proto-Gospel says.