Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox church both celebrate the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. This celebration clearly shows that neither Roman Catholic Tradition nor the Greek Orthodox church rely on Scripture alone — nor should they.

Several apocryphal texts relate that Mary, at the age of three, was brought by her parents to the Temple, in fulfilment of a vow, there to be educated1. The corresponding feast seems to have originated in Syria, where most apocryphal writings were made (and thereon celebrated for at least seven centuries as the Entrance of the Mother of God into the temple of Jerusalem), but it was not until 1166 that the Byzantine emperor Manuel Komnenos fully recognized it as a festival during which the law courts did not sit.

In the West it was introduced by a French nobleman, Philippe de Mazières, Chancellor of the King of Cyprus, who spent some time at Avignon during the pontificate of Gregory XI. It was celebrated in 1372 in the presence of the cardinals with an office borrowed from the Greeks. The following year, it was adopted in the royal chapel at Paris; then in 1418 at Metz; and 1420 at Cologne. In 1460 Pius II granted the feast with a vigil to the Duke of Saxony. Its observance continued in many dioceses throughout Christendom, but at the end of the Middle Ages, it was still missing in many calendars.

At Toledo in 1500 it was assigned by Cardinal Ximenes to 30 September, and Sixtus IV subsequently received it into the Roman Breviary. As an ascetic, Pius V struck it from the calendar in the interest of purity and simplicity, but Sixtus V nevertheless reintroduced it on 1 September, 1585. Pope Clement VIII later raised the occasion to a greater double feast in 1597. The feast also is observed in the Novus Ordo calendar.

Today is also a “Pro Orantibus” Day, a day of prayer for cloistered religious “totally dedicated to God in prayer, silence and concealment.”

1 Many otherwise interesting works were rejected from the Biblical canon for various reasons. Some failed because they were plainly heretical tales from breakaway sects such as the Gnostics; others were simply of dubious origin. The Church recognizes certain books as having historical validity, yet not the inspired Word of God, and chose to exclude them. She does not, however, demand of the faithful universal belief in the Presentation of Mary as described above. It always has been and remains merely a pious devotion.


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