Entry of the Virgin Mary the Theotokos into the Temple
The Presentation of Mary
Righteous Joachim and Anna had been granted their wish for a child with a vow to dedicate their child to the service of God. As soon as Mary was weaned from milk they felt an urgency to fulfill the vow they had made to God. When she was two years old her father said, “Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest the Lord depart from us, or perchance, the Lord send us someone to warn us that we have been too long in paying our vow because our offering hath not been received.” But her mother replied, “Let us wait until her third year, so that our daughter might not be at a loss to know her father and also that she might not look for us.” So, they decided to wait another year.
Then at the third year they decided to present Mary to the temple. Her father, Joachim, said, “Let us invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are virgins. Let each maiden take a lamp and stand with the lamps burning, that the child might not turn back and then her mind would be set against the temple of the Lord.”
Her parents then departed for the temple with an escort of young maidens. When they arrived they dressed Mary with clean and elegant clothes. As they entered the temple there were fifteen steps that led from the court of the women to that of the men where the entrance to the sacred place was. The fifteen represented to the Jews the fifteen Psalms of Degree [Ps 119-133, LXX] where degree means ascent and were sung by jews as they made their pilgrimage to the temple. The temple was built on a mountain so many steps were required to reach the altar. Mary managed these steps without any difficulty and the whole company ascended into the temple. She relied on God’s help showing how we too should make our own effort and rely on God”s help to take the steps necessary for our entry into heaven.
The head priest at the temple at that time was Zacharias, the husband of the niece of Mary’s mother Anna, Elizabeth. He is the future father of Saint John the Baptist. The Priest then asks her to “enter into the Holy of Holies, for thou are much purer than myself. I, O Mistress, once a year enter therein, but you, can sit and abide forever. For you are the temple of God, therefore, remain in the temple. You are the vessel of the Holy Spirit, enter into the elect place. Wait there until you are vouchsafed to be the worthy vessel of the All-Holy Spirit. Rejoice and dance, for angels desire to minister unto you.”
Anna offered Mary to the priest saying, “Receive our daughter, O high priest or, much rather, god. Accept her who is pure and blameless and higher than heaven. Take her into the temple for that is where she,, the temple of God, must be and dwell. She is holy, and in a pure place she is to abide. Therefore I surrender her into the hands of God.
Zacharias, after hearing these words from Anna received Mary and kissed her. He said, “The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, in the latter days, will the Lord make manifest His redemption of the Children of Israel. He sat her on the third step of the altar. Immediately God sent grace on her and she danced. Everyone loved her. She then wen up all the steps climbing maturely and speaking perfectly.
Joachim and Anna then left Mary with other maidens who lived in the apartments of the temple for rearing. They both marveled and praised God because mary did not look back. They returned to their home. For seven years Anna and Joachim visited Mary often until they reposed. Mary was became an orphan at the age of ten. Mary grew up in the temple until she was betrothed to Joseph.
Note: This event is not recounted in the New Testament, but is found in the Protoevangelion of James, an apocryphal book which was very popular in the early centuries of the Church.