Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Earlier Mysteries of the Blessed Virgin Mary ~ Her Presentation in the Temple




The Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple
Feast - November 21 

 


There are more than a few things in the Bible (and the New Testament is no exception) wherein story elements offend or confound our own contemporary sensibilities - like Jesus releasing the demons and the herd of pigs goes over the bluff and into the sea and drowns. Bible writing is ancient and it's unrealistic to expect that all the facets of the story will make sense to our way of thinking and living.

Joachim and Anne had prayed long for a child. And when God answered their prayer in the birth of Mary, they were  so grateful, at age three they presented her to the priest in the Jerusalem temple to live! Some young people feel exiled in being sent to summer camp or a residential school, but Mary was sent away as little more than a toddler. But the story is told so we can understand how profoundly God-centered her life was. Let's look for what's beautiful and good in the story and not worry about "How could they...!"  which would be to look at the story too simply.

There's resurrection in this young Mary, isn't there? The going up the stairs is important! And she is not only dressed in white, but she seems to radiate light from within. And Joachim, her father, is holding an empty glass jar. Was the painter just showing off that he had the skill to paint a transparent object? Maybe it signals Mary being emptied for God's purposes. Or Mary's transparency of soul!


Our Father...




At her Presentation at age three, Mary climbed the temple steps. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has said in an interview, "I think every human being is almost by  definition capable of hatred. But what I've learned is that a child until the age of three is not. A child begins to hate at the age of three. In other words, the child has been taught how to hate." Hate is strong feelings against other people. With Mary, I want to climb inner temple steps: up and out of ignorant hatred, to insight, consciousness and understanding.


Hail Mary!





In the ancient biblical world, to be childless cause terrible suffering, sadness and shame. By the time God answered their prayer for a baby Joachim and Anne were already elderly. God's ways are often very strange to us. But even though they had waited so long for this child, the parents were quick to keep their promise to give the child to God's care - placing God first by allowing Mary to be brought up in the temple. And while this may be seemingly impossible for us understand, we might at least pause to consider how I might come a bit closer to that reality. What could it mean for me?



Hail Mary!






Old Zechariah received the three-year-old Mary who climbed the steps unassisted to to the Holy of Holies. It was right for Mary to climb the temple steps - she is higher than the angels. And when she reached the top, Zechariah took her by the hand, leaning on her as if she were a little staff who would lead him to the Holy. Then she went past the veil into the deepest and most secret place of the temple, where only the High Priest was allowed to enter once a year. Oh Lady, enter with your brightness, and light up the inner places where I am blinded by shadow and dark inclinations.


Hail Mary!






Presentation means to make a gift of something. At first glance it looks as if Joachim and Anne present Mary to Zechariah for life in the temple. But when Mary climbs the stairs and enters the holy place, we sense she is presenting herself to God and for God's purposes. Each day I can make a presentation of myself ~ like the glass jar Joachim holds, presenting myself to God, waiting eagerly to be filled.


Hail Mary!





There is something very beautiful about Mary that draws even non-believers to her. Do I notice that even as a little girl, she is fully dressed? That pleases us somehow. Maybe deep inside we feel shame that today in our country, everything is sold by sex - even soda and cars. Undressing is celebrated and expected. Our dancing is no longer elegant and disciplined but now sexualized in a primitive way. Women and girls are exploited for sex, and even the nakedness of little children is desired, sought after and paid for. Mary is modest, which means: not everything has to be shown and seen. It is a very beautiful virtue.


Hail Mary!






The Child Mary climbed the steps before the temple altar and on the third step, she danced, and all of Israel loved her. In many  traditional dances, there are patterns and rules to follow and someone leads while taking the hand of the other. Oh, let's take the hand of Mary who leads the joyful  dance that guides souls. And let's pray that she would lead us out of the abyss of self-loathing; out of the inner land of lies, dark and hateful thoughts - to the contemplation of God's face.


Hail Mary!






The Infant Mary was the fruit of Joachim's and Anne's long, fervent and persevering prayer. And there are people who say, "Oh I tried prayer; it doesn't work." Some people keep daily tabs on the performance of their stock portfolios and make adjustments to maximize their profits. Some people have never missed an episode of a favorite TV series. Some people people spend countless hours talking on the phone everyday with the same friends. But prayer? "Oh I tried that; it doesn't work!" Oh heaven, how we use and abuse you!


Hail Mary!






There is a book for children about the years in which Mary lived in the temple as a young girl: Mary was blessed by God with all goodness. She became very strong in her faith. She was humble, kind, helpful and friendly to everyone. She offended no one, nor spoke ugly words. She never allowed unclean thoughts to enter her heart. And so she grew in wisdom and grace blessed by God. I want to be this alive too: growing in wisdom and grace. 


Hail Mary!






Mary was presented to God in the temple at age three. And at Mass there is the presentation of the bread and wine to be transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. There is nothing in our culture any more which invites transformation - only the transformation of how much weight I can lose with these pills over a weekend, or whose face can be transformed most successfully by surgery. But the best transformation is from hatred to kindness, justice, mercy and compassion. And when I have undergone that transformation, then I am free. But it begins with an oblation: a conscious offering of myself to God, who wants so much to grow-me-up in goodness.


Hail Mary!





We know almost nothing of the twelve years which the young Mary lived while in the temple. She lived with other girls. Widows helped to care for her. We can imagine Mary quite alone with God. Her life was lived with no publicity. God was building a living temple in which Jesus the Savior would live. God is heard in silence. But what did the young Mary hear? Surely God's law which says: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your whole mind." (Matthew 22:37,38)


Hail Mary!

Glory be to the Father...

2 comments:

  1. There is innate beauty in this story of Mary. An account that I suspect many are not aware of. But your reflections bring meaning to it in today's world. "What could it mean for me?" In this world as you describe, let us not forget the true meaning of the sacrifices of the Blessed Virgin and her parents. Open to the will of God. So that we may have life in God's presence. A loving and forgiving God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You focus the question: What could it mean for me? And this is a national question and a Church question. To "present" myself - ourselves to God? What does this mean? If it doesn't mean our inner freedom from hatred, ignorance, selfishness and greed - then we have missed it - utterly.

      Delete