Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
St. Paul of the Cross was devoted to this memorial. He named his first monastery The Presentation, and an early province of the Congregation was named Presentation. In fact, it is currently linked to Holy Cross province in the proposed configuration of provinces, forthcoming from the Cuernevaca synod of provincials.
There is no exact biblical basis for this commemoration, but there are tangential ones, such as Hannah’s presentation of her son Samuel, in the temple. Nonetheless, the bible need not be the source of every bit of information regarding these matters. It was likely a religious practice of devout Jews, cementing bonds of affiliation between a young person and God. We Catholics are familiar with similar practices, which we sometimes describe as devotions.
One such practice of ours is infant baptism, which we vigorously support, realizing its importance in establishing an important personal linkage in the life of the infant. It’s an incorporation of the child into the full dimension of church membership-a safe harbor against the coldness of unattachment.
Jesus exhibits concern about personal attachments in the day’s gospel. He wants them to be expansive-not restricted just to blood relatives like mothers and brothers. Whoever does His Father’s will is brother, sister and mother to Him. Likewise the prophet Zechariah is happy at the prospect of expanding God’s people to include "many peoples".
This enlarged view of significant persons in our lives works not only to our own personal enrichment, but also to the enhancement of the church. It is an early version of mission, reaching out to others on behalf of God, calling them into relationship with Him. Mary’s presentation to God by Joachim and Anne was a first step in this regard, an outreach to Another Who would be of such benefit to her, and to us who follow her example.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionists community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.