The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin, by Father B Rohner, OSB

detail of a stained glass window depicting the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple; c.1887 by Émile Hirsch; Church of Saint-Médard, Brunoy, Essonne, Île-de-France, France; photographed on 2 March 2017 by GFreihalter; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsThe feast of Mary’s Presentation in the temple was introduced into the Eastern Church in very early times. It had several names. The Greeks called it “The entrance or the introduction of the Blessed Virgin into the temple.” The Arabs termed it “The progress of the Intercession into the temple.” The Emperor Emmanuel Comnenus, who ascended the throne in the year 1143, raised this festival to the same rank as that of those high festivals which it was obligatory to keep throughout the whole empire. For four hundred years it was thus observed in the Eastern Church, when it was finally introduced into the West. One Philip of Maize, a French nobleman, who, as ambassador of his king, spent some time in the island of Cyprus, took part in the solemnity held there on this day. The festival and its object pleased him very much, and the description which he gave of it to his king, Charles V, on his return, induced the king to introduce the festival into the kingdom of France. In order to augment the devotion of the people, the Popes Pius II and Paul II granted several indulgences to all those faithful who would assist at divine service on that festival. During the pontificate of Pius V, who, on account of the multitude of abuses that were creeping in on all sides, yielded to the request of many and diminished the holy days, this feast was also suppressed, at least in the city of Rome. But it was only for a short time. At the urgent solicitation of a celebrated Jesuit, Father Francis Turien, who in many learned essays had studied the circumstances of the Blessed Virgin’s stay in the temple, the case was reopened under Pope Sixtus for further Consideration. In consequence of these investigations Pope Sixtus V, in the year 1585 decreed that this festival of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the temple, a feast celebrated from the earliest times with great pomp and devotion, should take its place among the other festivals of the Blessed Virgin and if in any place it had fallen into disuse, it should be restored and piously observed. Hence this Pope must be regarded as the one who made this festival of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin a festival of the universal Church.

A beautiful practice on this festival exists in many communities of priests, or in ecclesiastical seminaries, where young men are trained to live in community life. In honor of and in commemoration of the Blessed Virgin’s entrance into the temple, and of her dedication to the service of the Lord, these young men solemnly renew their promise to serve God cheerfully in His holy sanctuary. During the public office of the Church, one of their number, clad in a white surplice, and holding in his hand a burning taper, stands before the altar and pronounces aloud in a clear voice the words of the Psalmist David, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup; it is Thou that wilt restore my inheritance to me. The lines are fallen unto me in goodly places, for my inheritance is goodly to me.” To be sure, the calling to the priesthood is a sublime inheritance, a sacred calling and a glorious portion. But the simple faithful, also, are called to the service of God and should, therefore, on this day after themselves up to God in union with the child Mary. Yes, glorious indeed is our portion, for the Lord our God is our inheritance.

Prayer of Holy Church

O God, who wast pleased to permit Mary, the ever pure and Blessed Virgin, to be presented on this day in the temple as the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, through her intercession, may deserve to appear in the temple of Thy glory.

Through Thy mercies, O Lord, and by the intercession of the ever pure and Blessed Virgin, may this Presentation of Mary contribute to our peace in this life and happiness in the next.

Now that we have tasted, O Lord, the nourishing food of our salvation, grant that we may be always shielded by the protecting arm of the ever pure and Blessed Mary in whose honor we have offered this victim to Thy majesty, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

– text taken from Veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Her Feasts, Prayers, Religious Orders, and Sodalities, by Father B Rohner, OSB, adapted by Father Richard Brennan, LLD, published in 1898 by Benziger Brothers; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Michael Augustine, Archdiocese of New York, New York, 22 June 1898