Although modernist Catholics disparage this feast for what they perceive as a “lack of historicity”, for those who are consecrated to her Immaculate Heart, this beautiful feast teaches volumes of devotion to our Queen and Mother. Rather than pick it apart with arrogant disdain because it is not mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, let’s look at it prayerfully to see what it tells us about Mary’s devotion to the most Holy Trinity.
When she was only three years old, her parents Anna and Joachim, brought her to the Temple to be enclosed as a temple virgin. Consider the generous sacrifice of this holy couple, who had so earnestly prayed for a child during many years of barrenness. Psalm 44 speaks to us of this moment of surrender, “Hearken O Daughter and consider, and incline thine ear, forget also thine own people, and thy father’s house. And so shall the King desire thy beauty, for He is the Lord thy God.” (Psalm 44, 11,12)
And so, she ascends the steps of the Temple; tradition tells us that she danced on the steps, on her way to her life of consecration to the Lord. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen tells us that this total consecration is a matter of detaching the affections, of seclusion from the world. Not always a material seclusion but it is absolutely essential that it be a matter of being “in the world, but not of the world”. He continues,
Corresponding to complete separation is oblation, total consecration. Mary gave herself wholly to God, unreservedly, forever. “Lord, in the simplicity of my heart I offer myself to Thee this day as Thy servant forevermore, for Thy homage and for a sacrifice of perpetual praise.” (Imitation of Christ, IV, 9,1).
Mary gave herself wholly to God, allowing Him to exercise over her all His rights as Sovereign, Lord, and Master. She made no objections nor did she marvel that her immolation should reach such proportions; had she not offered herself without reserve? And when her offering was consummated she did nothing but repeat: “Fiat! Ecce ancilla Domini!”
Let us ask Mary, presented in the Temple, to take our poor offering into her immaculate hands, to purify and complete it by her offering, so pure, so perfect; to include it and hide it in hers, and being thus purified and renewed, it may be agreeable to God.
St. Alphonsus Liguori’s Prayer for 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.”
We must always understand that our turning from creatures does not at all mean that we love them less, but that by loving them through God, we love them much more beneficently than when we loved them for our own satisfaction. Our Lord taught us, in His Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5,3) As always, Mary leads the way, making her first vows at the age of three, she left all to become poor in spirit. We are her children after all!
O Immaculate Queen of our hearts, make our hearts like unto thine!
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin, give me strength against thine enemies!