Once again the answer isn’t what we might first think. This feast isn’t just about Mary and a misguided exaltation of her. All feasts, icons, music and action within the Church occur for one, and only one purpose: to remind us of God’s work of salvation. Those who criticize our veneration of this day are right, it does not appear in the scriptures. But the reason for that is not because it is a fictitious account, or that Mary is unworthy of such respect. The story of Mary appears in a book written by James, the brother of the Lord and the first bishop of Jerusalem, called the Protoevangelion. This book tells us the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna. It also tells us that they were righteous before God. Nevertheless, Anna was barren. They prayed to God that they might know the joys of a child and they pledged to dedicate any child to the Temple. Because they were righteous God granted them the blessing of a daughter, and because they were righteous they fulfilled their vow and brought Mary to the Temple when she turned six. Because they were righteous they, like Abraham before them, offered their child in sacrifice.
This act, as well as all others Mary witnessed growing up in their blessed home, prepared her for the day, 10 years later, when Gabriel would appear to proclaim God’s will. Mary was sacrificed to the Temple that she might understand the sacrifice God was making in sending his Son, who would ultimately take the place of Isaac and be the true sacrifice for the sins of the people, of all people. Mary’s entrance shows the depths of faith that we must have in order to truly be called Christian.
The feast shows us the faith of her parents that allowed them to fulfill their pledge to God, knowing that she would leave their lives, but also knowing the great joy God had brought them through her. It teaches us the value of the blessing that a child’s life, and we are all children, brings, even when the child is only with us for a short time. It shows us the deep, abiding love that faith brings. A love that bears any burden because it is a love that endures no matter the separation of body or soul. When Mary enters the Temple on that day God’s love encompasses her and her parents, and through their righteous sacrifice we will ultimately see the depth and breadth of God’s own love for us through his express image, Jesus Christ who is incarnate through this young girl. Let us all humbly and meekly approach God that He may bless us with the joy that Joachim and Anna knew when someone enters our life. Let us also pray that we may show them the great love God has for all. Finally, let us hope that we may all enter the Temple that is in heaven and share food at the altar so that we may all make Christ incarnate in our lives.