The Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(from The Liturgical Year by Abbot Guéranger)

The Church in the East had been celebrating, for seven centuries at least, the entrance of the Mother of God into the temple of Jerusalem (in the sixth century the Emperor Justinian built, in honor of the Presentation, a magnificent church on the southern part of the platform on which had formerly stood the temple and its annexes), when in 1372 Pope Gregory XI permitted it to be kept for the first time by the Roman court at Avignon. Mary in return broke the chains of captivity that had bound the Papacy for seventy years; and soon the Successor of St. Peter returned to Rome. The feast of the Visitation, as we saw on July 2, was in like manner inserted in the Western calendar to commemorate the re-establishment of unity after the schism which followed the exile.

In 1374, following the example of the Sovereign Pontiff, Charles V of France introduced the feast of the Presentation into the chapel of his palace. By letters dated November 10, 1374, to the masters and students of the college of Navarre, he expressed his desire that it should be celebrated throughout the kingdom: "Charles, by the grace of God king of the Franks, to our dearly beloved: health in Him who ceases not to honor His Mother on earth. Among other objects of our solicitude, of our daily care and diligent meditation, that which rightly occupies our first thoughts is, that the Blessed Virgin and most Holy Empress be honored by us with very great love, and praised as becomes the veneration due to her. For it is our duty to glorify her; and we, who raise the eyes of our soul to her on high, know what an incomparable protectress she is to all, how powerful a Mediatrix with her Blessed Son, for those who honor her with a pure heart... Wherefore, wishing to excite our faithful people to solemnize the said feast, as we ourselves do by God's assistance every year of our life, we send this Office to your devotion, in order to increase your joy."

Such was the language of princes in those days. Now, just at that very time the wise and pious king, following up the work begun at Brétigny by Our Lady of Chartres, rescued France from its fallen and dismembered condition. In the State, then, as well as in the Church, at this moment so critical for both, Our Lady in her Presentation commanded the storm, and the smile of the Infant Mary dispersed the clouds.

...In the Cycle of the Saints, which is not so precisely limited as that of the Time, the mystery of Mary's sojourn in the sanctuary of the Old Covenant is our best preparation for the approaching Season of Advent. Mary, led to the temple in order to prepare in retirement, humility, and love for her incomparable destiny, had also the mission of perfecting at the foot of the figurative altar the prayer of the human race, of itself ineffectual to draw down the Savior from Heaven. She was, as St. Bernardine of Siena says, the happy completion of all the waiting and supplication for the coming of the Son of God; in her, as in their culminating-point, all the desires of the saints who had preceded her found their consummation and their term.

...O Mary, deign to bless especially those privileged souls who, by the grace of their vocation, are even here below dwellers in the house of the Lord... May we, through thy intercession, follow thee so closely in thy Presentation, that we may deserve to be presented after thee to the Most High in the temple of His glory.

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