Presentation of Mary
1 Samuel 3:1-10
The Presentation of Mary in the Temple has been commemorated in the Passionist Community from the very beginning. It is likely the earliest Marian devotion among us, even though it is not a major devotion on the calendar of the church universal. The first community residence of Passionist men was named Presentation, as also of Passionist women.
The reflection offered in the first of today’s liturgical readings provides some hints why this is so. We recognize, of course, that neither of these directly addresses the Presentation of Mary in the temple. We have no direct biblical reference to this event and, at times, we confuse it with the biblical episode of Jesus’ presentation in the temple.
But presuming that Mary’s devout parents, Joachim and Anne, carried out this practice, we gain an appreciation of this event from the day’s biblical readings. For instance, in the Book of Samuel we note the similarity between the notable event happening to the young Samuel and the similarly young Mary. Samuel too was presented in the temple by his parents, Elkanah and Hannah, and he spent his young life there. It was in the temple that he heard the voice of God addressing him.
We note the significance of this event: it happened in the temple. If Samuel had not been in the temple, likely he would not have received his vocation to be a prophet. In other words, place was very important in hearing God’s voice. Is this not why the two first places in the histories of Passionist men and women were named Presentation, because this is where the voice of God is heard? Place is important in hearing God address us.
Having access to God’s voice is important in helping us put our lives together. So when Jesus speaks in today’s gospel, He prioritizes the importance of having the same access to the Word of God that the young Samuel had. And in doing so, He highlights what is truly remarkable about Mary, His mother-not just her mothering of Himself by her, but her opportunity, like that of Samuel, of hearing God’s word and keeping it. This hearing God’s word, for her, occurred not only in the synagogue but also in her own home, close to the young Jesus-the very Word of God not only in what He said, but in Who He was: the Word of God made flesh.
So we recall a remarkable message today: access to the word of God is something to celebrate. The question for us is how to gain access to this. The answer is: the place is important. And among the places we treasure is the one where we most frequently hear the Word of God and receive Him bodily into our minds and hearts.
Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago.