The Presentation of
the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to the Protoevangelium of James, when Mary was three-years-old, her parents brought her to the Temple, in fulfillment of a vow, to dedicate her to God, and to have her educated there.
The Protoevangelium of James is an apocryphal work, supposedly written by James the Brother of the Lord – who is James the Less, as opposed to James the Great. The work tries to fill in the blanks of Mary’s and Jesus’ life that Some of the details in the Protoevangelium include:
- the names of Mary’s parents are Joachim and Anna; they were previously childless
- Joseph was chosen by the High Priest as Mary’s spouse when a dove flew out of the High Priest’s rod and landed on Joseph’s head
(For an understanding of “the brothers of the Lord“, read the Catholic Answers article.)
The Protoevangelium of James does not contain anything contrary to the Gospel; however, It contains many legendary and fantastic elements. Consequently, the Protoevangelium was rejected as inspired, canonical scripture. The Church Fathers were not quick to accept writings as “Inspired Scripture”, even when Apostolic authorship was asserted. “It was not until the Middle Ages, when their true origin was forgotten even by most of the learned, that these apocryphal stories began to enter largely into sacred legends.” (quote from The Catholic Encyclopedia article)
“Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.” (quote from the American Catholic article). (Also see the Wikipedia article)
The name of the feast in the East is The Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Theotokos is a theological term designating the Blessed Virgin as the God (Theo) bearer (tokos). It is better translated as “Mother of God”, asserting that Mary was the mother of a single person, Jesus Christ, who had both a human AND a divine nature. The title was formulated at the Council of Ephesus to counter the Nestorian heresy, which held that Mary was the mother only of the human Christ; not of his divinity. (See my post on Pope St. Leo the Great for more).