On November 21, we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the occasion when Saint Anne and Saint Joachim presented their daughter to Zachary, the high priest in the Jerusalem Temple.
This occasion was not simply a “presentation” as we understand the word today, but rather it was the official entrance of Mary, at only three years old and at her own request, into the Temple, where she was to live a life of dedication to God in continuous prayer, similar to convent life today.
Mary’s parents were obedient to an extraordinary request from God and from Mary to allow the Temple teachers to oversee the formation of Mary because of her singular role in salvation history. Her role and her sinless condition meant she needed a very special formation.
From the teachings of the Bible and the Church, we know that God has always asked parents to take a very active role in the education of their children. Historically and certainly today, the government schools either work completely against Faith and virtue, or are very weak in their formation, however fine they may be in transmitting certain knowledge and skills.
We homeschooling parents can see this event as reminding us of the importance of teaching our children from their very young age about God, the Holy Family, and whatever teachings about the Faith they can understand.
The Presentation of Mary also reminds us that the best way to teach our children is by example. Certainly, the sinless Mary was ready and able to learn important truths about God from her parents at a very young age because she was free from sin. Our children, because of original sin, need a longer formation in the family. The family is the school of faith and virtue today. As difficult as our current American culture makes it to even be a Christian family, there is no alternative.
If the traditional Christian family is lacking or fails, it is impossible that any other entity could do better, or remedy the problems of children. Our children will be more accepting of Catholic teachings if they are taught to be obedient to their parents as they see their parents’ own obedience and practice of the Faith.
It is likely that there were those besides Saints Anne and Joachim who recognized Mary as the beginning of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Messiah. Zachary, the high priest, had known Mary’s parents for some time. The Eastern Rite liturgical prayers include these words: “Zachary had this to say to Mary: ‘O Door of the Lord, to you I open the doors of the Temple. Enter with joy, for I know and I believe that the salvation of Israel will come now, and from you will be born the Word of God, who grants great mercy to the world.’”
Various Eastern Rite prayers remark that the future pure Temple or Tabernacle of the Messiah was herself entering the Temple of the Lord. “O Faithful, let us exchange glad tidings today, singing psalms to the Lord and hymns of praise in honor of Mary, His Mother, His holy Tabernacle, the Ark that contained the Word, whom nothing can contain.”
“Today, the living Temple of the holy glory of Christ our God, Mary, the pure and blessed one, is presented in the Temple of Moses to live in its holy precincts.”
“The most praiseworthy Anne cries out in great joy to Zachary, the high priest: Come receive joyfully the one whom the Prophets of God announced by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Introduce her into the holy Temple that she may be brought up in purity, to become the Throne of God, a palace, a place of delight to the Lord of us all.”
O Blessed Virgin Mary, as we celebrate and consider the occasion of your Presentation in the Temple by your parents, help us homeschooling parents to realize the importance of bringing up our children, especially our very young children, with our own good example of being obedient to the teachings of Jesus and His Church.
Holy Virgin, presented in childhood in the Temple, pray for us.