On this day, 21 November, the Church, informed by the Holy Spirit and Tradition, honors the Blessed Virgin Mary in remembrance of her Presentation in the Temple. According to tradition, Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, consecrated her to serve the Lord when she was just three years old. The Feast of the Presentation of Mary is especially observed by the Congregations of Consecrated Religious since we believe that at that time, when she was just three years old, the Blessed Virgin Mary offered the Lord four sacred vows during a beatific vision of the Most Holy Trinity.
Mary offered the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience and enclosure in the temple of the Lord. However, the Lord, knowing what Mary did not then know, only allowed the vow of chastity and commanded her to observe the other vows according to His will which He would manifest to her at the appropriate time. The Lord then added, “Thy desire shall be fulfilled through many other virgins in the coming law of grace; for in order to imitate thee and to serve Me, they will make these same vows and live together in community and thou shalt be the Mother of many daughters.”
Venerable Mary of Agreda tells us that this is the fulfillment of David’s prophecy in Psalm 44, “After her shall virgins be brought unto the King.” This psalm is recited as part of the Little Office Second Nocturn of Matins on Tuesdays and Fridays.
We are all called to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience insofar as our state of life permits. Chastity can and should be observed in marriage by a right understanding of the purpose of marriage, by modesty and faithfulness. Poverty is a virtue all Christians are called to and obedience means nothing less than to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ in all circumstances, in all our daily duties.
St. Alphonsus Liguori has a lovely prayer for this day of the Presentation:
“O dearly Beloved of God, most amiable Child Mary, would that today I could offer to you the first years of my life and consecrate myself to your service, my blessed and sweet Lady, as you presented and consecrated yourself in the Temple for the honor and glory of God … but time has slipped away and so many years have been spent in serving the world and my own caprice, forgetful of you and of God. Woe to the time when I did not love you! But better late than never. Behold, O Mary, I present myself to you this day, offering myself entirely to your service for the number of days, be they few or many, that are left to me on earth. I renounce all creatures as you did and vow myself entirely to the love of my Creator.
“I consecrate to you, my Queen, my intellect that it may always think upon the love that you deserve, my tongue that it may praise you, my heart that it may love you. Accept, Most Holy Virgin, the offering which this wretched sinner presents to you; accept it, I beg, by the consolation your heart felt when you gave yourself to God in the Temple. And if I am late in putting myself at your service, it is but fitting that I redeem the time lost by redoubling my devotions and my love for thee.
“O Mother of Mercy, help my weakness by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your Son, Jesus, the strength to be faithful to you until death. Grant that after having served you in this life I may go to praise you eternally in Paradise. Amen.”
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