THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY IN THE TEMPLE
Mary offered herself to God promptly and entirely, for she well understood the voice of God calling her to devote herself as a perpetual victim in His honour. Arise! Make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one and come! (Cant. ii. 10). Let us this day present ourselves to Mary without delay and without reserve, and let us entreat her who was the delight of her God to offer us to her Divine Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us consider how prompt Mary was in offering herself to God. In her infancy, having scarcely attained the age of three years, knowing that her parents had made a vow to consecrate her to God, she was the first to request them to accomplish their promise by assuring them that the time had already come. She also it was who obtained from God the strength for her parents to fulfil such a promise; for certainly very great was the violence that the holy parents had to do to themselves to deprive themselves so soon of a daughter whom they had so much desired to have, and who from the tenderest age had charmed them so much by her amiability.
Behold now Joachim and Anne generously sacrificing to the Lord that which was dearest to their hearts, setting out from Nazareth, accompanied by few relatives, indeed, but by choirs of Angels. They had to carry their well-beloved little daughter by turns, on account of the length of journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem.
Having reached Jerusalem they brought their cherished little daughter to the Temple. The holy child immediately ascended to the first step, and turning to her parents, on her knees kissed their hands and asked them to bless her and to recommend her to God. After having received the blessing, and being strengthened by the love with which she was going to serve her God, Who had deigned to call her to His house, she ascended all the steps of the Temple, and did so with so much haste and zeal that she turned back no more, not even to look on her parents who remained there deeply afflicted, and at the same time filled with wonder at the sight of so much strength and courage in so young a child.
Ah! holy child, it is thou who art the happy daughter of the prince of the earth praised by Holy Scripture: How beautiful are thy steps, O prince’s daughter (Cant. vii. 1). Indeed, very dear and very pleasing in the eyes of thy Lord and thy God have been the generous steps that thou dist take in the tenderest years of thy life, leaving thy parents, thy house, and thy relatives to go to consecrate thyself entirely to God’s honour and service. Go thou, O Sovereign Lady, will I say with St. Germanus, go with joy into the house of God, to prepare thyself for the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who is to come to make thee the Mother of God Himself. O happy Virgin, who didst begin so soon to serve God, and who didst always serve Him so faithfully, cast a look on me, returning to Him with such tardiness after so many years lost in the love of creatures, and obtain for me the grace to give God at least the remainder of my life, be it long or short. I know that I have very many times deserved to die in sin; I know that it is thou who didst obtain for me the time to do penance — a grace that has not been granted to so many others. Ah, my most amiable Queen, may my life, so unlike to thine, excite in thee not the disgust that it deserves, but rather thy compassion. Since thou hast already done so much for me, finish the work of my salvation; do not abandon me till thou seest me safe at thy feet in Paradise.
Let us consider that which was the most beautiful part in Mary’s offering was that she consecrated herself not only at an early age, but also entirely and without the least reserve.
Already from the first moment of her existence in the womb of her mother, when by a singular privilege she received the use of reason, with the great light with which at the same time the Lord enriched it, she gave herself up entirely to God. Yet her holy soul was waiting with great longing for the day in which she might consecrate herself to God more effectively and thoroughly by becoming detached from all earthly things, even from every innocent affection for her parents, who loved her so tenderly. Hence we may understand the consolation she felt when at her entrance into the holy Temple, by a new act of the most ardent love, she devoted herself entirely to the glory of the Divine Majesty.
Let us consider that this wonderful child, as soon as she found herself in the Temple, first presented herself to her mistress, and on her knees humbly besought her to teach her all that she had to do. Afterwards she saluted her companions and begged them to condescend to admit her into their society.
After these acts of reverence and humility, the youthful Mary turned all her thoughts towards God. She prostrated, and kissed the floor for joy of being in the house of the Lord. She adored His infinite Majesty, and thanked Him for the great favour she was receiving from Him — namely, that He had so sweetly arranged for her to come to live for a time in His house. Then it was that she offered herself entirely to God, without the least reserve, by consecrating to Him all her faculties and all her senses, her whole mind and her whole heart, her whole soul and her whole body. For at this time, in order to please God the more, she made the vow of virginity, a new vow, unusual at that time, and regarded by the Jews rather as a disgrace. But if Mary was the first to make such a vow, she was not the only one to do so; for, as David had foretold, After her shall virgins be brought to the King (Ps. xliv. 15). Oh, how many very pure virgins have followed the example of Mary their Queen!
Again, Mary offered herself thus entirely without limitation of time; for by this offering of herself she had the intention of devoting herself to the service of God in the Temple during her whole life, if such should be the good pleasure of the Lord, and never to depart from this holy place. Behold me now before Thee, O Lord, this holy child must have said; I come into Thy house only to be Thy servant; accept the desire I have of rendering Thee all the honour I can render, and receive me into Thy service by giving me grace to be faithful to Thee. The Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Elizabeth, a Benedictine nun, that when she was placed in the Temple she resolved in her heart to think of nothing but of God alone.
O Virgin full of sweetness, when will the day come for me, on which, detached from all earthly affections, I shall give myself entirely to God, Who during so many years has been waiting for me and calling me to His love? My most holy Mother, today at last, animated by thy example, I give myself with thee to God entirely and without reserve; I give Him my soul, my body, my will; but I desire that thou first unite this offering of mine to that which in thy infancy thou didst make in the Temple: and then that thou present it to the Lord with thy own hand. Still, this is not enough; obtain for me, besides, grace to be faithful to God as thou hast been thyself, in order that I may never take back what I give Him today.