3 – Mary and the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple – Mary Most Pure
We all know the story of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple – it was Jewish Law given by Moses that after the birth of a child the mother was to wait forty days before coming near to anything that was holy. This is a great link to the scripture and a detailed explanation https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/seasons-and-feast-days/presentation-of-the-lord-20666
But how does this mystery fit in with Mary walking to the Cross? I wondered myself for quite awhile as to why I chose this to be part of the Lenten series. It was a key moment for Mary and so I think I found with research and writing why it should be here.
Three points brought me to consider how Mary chose to experience the Presentation of our Lord – her son – at the Temple. First, we know that Mary expressed great humility and resignation. She was the temple – she carried the true Lamb of God in her womb! But Mary did not seek to set herself apart. She went to fulfill the law. It makes a woman stop and think about how much humility and resignation we might give to something that we shouldn’t have had to do but did it anyway for the sake of others, to be hidden and interior instead of loud and out front. Mary could have made a big deal but tried instead to blend in and do exactly what was expected. It would almost seem like that she would be acting as a door mat – lowering herself beyond what was necessary almost being foolish. But I stop to consider Mary’s intentions – and that couldn’t be the answer. Mary most pure, gentle and meek. Mary immaculate, sorrowful, faithful, prudent and devout. All the words to describe our heavenly Mother do not point anyway near defiance. Was it hard for her? I doubt it. It was her nature. She was conceived without sin – I believe that had to make the real difference between her and all of us. So she became the model for us – yes – the model of humility and resignation we strive for in ourselves to seek the road that she took, dying to self in a very natural way, doing sometimes what we did not want or need to do but because it was expected. And to do it without the fanfare or others knowing we did it. That is walking to the cross because our very big prideful hearts must die to themselves, and her son showed us the way.
My second point is how Mary actually shows up at the Temple. She stayed away for forty days, she brought the two turtle doves, gives them over and pays the sin offering. She was obedient to the law to the fullest. She offered everything that was required at the right time, place and method. She did all this with intentionality. Again, she didn’t have to. But she prepared, followed through and fulfilled the law. Mary brings her son to be offered and I think about what I offer to the Father. When I came back into the Catholic faith after being gone for years I was a mess. I was so hungry for my newfound faith – it was like I was in a pin ball machine ricocheting everywhere. But my desire was in offering my whole self to the Father, to Christ and just knew I couldn’t give less. I had to show up in Mass, adoration, confession; I had to attend the talks, special services and missions. God had my attention much like Mary’s at the Annunciation. There would be no turning back. The Holy Spirit led me to a deeper encounter with each passing year and in time I knew more of why it couldn’t be anything less. The walk to the cross was the saying goodbye to a life I used to know – to friends and family who would not agree with my new life – and being able to say yes, Lord, I want you. Your grace is sufficient for me. Your giving me a cross to carry is what I want.
My third point then is what happened with Simeon and Anna, the widow. Just being in the vicinity of the holy family made Simeon pause to realize something was different. Pope St. John Paul II stated
“Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”
There is no doubt of Mary’s importance to women – her life is the ultimate model in how to reflect Christ to the world. Charity, humility, continued purification and even mortification is necessary by women in order to show our Lord’s face in every day life. Yet it is in satiating our thirst for him, desiring our hearts and minds to be in union with our emotions and thoughts – which always want to do good – is the cross we will carry. I say this because far too often mingled in with our desires to be pleasing is the judgements and critical thinking, vanity, pride, lust, sloth, gluttony, greed, envy; all these are our downfall. We fall in our humanness! Daily life, driving, dealing with work, school, community and our families all give us that time of putting ourselves right and another wrong. But now in this time of purification – as we too offer ourselves back to God, we must put our eyes on Christ who forgives our every weakness. How do we do this in the world that requires so much from us? Once again, it is often to seek humility, charity, meekness and the docility Mary exhibited. Placing myself last. Closing my mouth sooner. Choosing the smaller, less significant. Not seeking to be understood but accepting something lesser. Praying for those that inconvenience me. Intentional acts of quiet, unobserved piety that only our heavenly Father can see. Like Anna, sharing the word of God in all areas whenever possible.
Today in the collect of the Mass, we hear “look kindly, Lord, we pray, on the devotion of your people, that those who by self-denial are restrained in body, may by the fruit of good works be renewed in mind.” Let’s help each other to remember we aren’t perfect, but every act of dying to self helps us to carry our cross with Mary.