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Presentation Day, 2015

21st Nov 2014

Presentation Day

Marlette Black pbvm says, “Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation Sisters, had two major devotions”. 

One was to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and one was to the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. For a time the Presentation Sisters were called “The Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” before their name was changed to “Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. 

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple is the Feast Day celebrated by all Presentation people. This Feast of Mary is given prominence in the Eastern Catholic Church and is part of Tradition rather than being found in the New Testament. Some of the prophecies of the Old Testament foreshadow the event, e.g. Isaiah 60:5ff and Isaiah 61:10. >

The main source of the story of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is found in the Protevangelium of James in the second century. We read there: 

Joachim placed her on the third step of the altar, and the Lord God put grace upon the child, and she danced for joy with her feet, and the whole house of Israel loved her. And her parents went down wondering, praising and glorifying the almighty God because the child did not turn back. And Mary was in the Temple nurtured like a dove and received food from the hand of an angel. 

 

Many ancient icons and classic paintings depict the Presentation of Mary, the Theotokos (God-bearer), in the Temple. 

In the Eastern Church, the Feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is called “The Feast of Mary’s Entry Into Silence”. St Gregory Palamas in the 14th century wrote a sermon in which he sees Mary as a contemplative, as the one who has attained silence of heart. Mary’s time in the Temple was a training in contemplation through stillness and silence of heart. She developed the attitude of attentive listening, an awareness of God’s immediacy. In the Temple Mary learned to become “space for the Uncontained God”. 

In the Byzantine hymn books Mary is seen as being herself the true temple and in the Eastern Church the liturgy refers to Mary as “the pure temple of the Saviour”. She is indeed the heavenly tabernacle and in the hymns she is described as “ark”, “holy of holies”, “house of God”, and “house of grace”. The dwelling place of God incarnate is not a shrine constructed by human hands, but the altar of Mary’s body and soul. 

The feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple is not primarily about Mary’s self-giving to God. This is properly celebrated in the Feast of the Annunciation. The Presentation of Mary in the Temple celebrates the fact that God dwells with us – in our lives, in our communities and in the whole cosmos. Jesus is the new Temple – the new dwelling place of God, and Mary because she bears God in her womb is the new ark of the Covenant, the new dwelling place of God. 

Each of us, each of our communities, the whole world and all creation needs to become more visibly the place where God dwells.The spiritual legacy of Presentation people is that we are Heart and Temple people who are called to become for our world God’s loving presence and compassionate heart. This requires of us an attentiveness to God’s presence through mindfulness and stillness of heart. And the young Mary’s eager dancing steps in the portals of the Temple remind us that discerning and imaging the presence of God is a joyful calling. 

In one of her poems Raphael Consedine pbvm sums up the meaning of this beautiful feast: 

Mary, 
living from that sacred place 
where earth meets heaven, 
your heart discerned the Holy One … 


Sr Marlette Black pbvm is Leader of the Presentation Sisters of Queensland and is a Mercy Partners Formation Committee member. 
 

 

This article was first published in MercyPartnersNEWS, Edition 21