Posted by: Fr Chris | November 20, 2019

The Great Value of a Little Girl

Theotokos's Entry into the Temple (The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary), Mosaic.c ...

Presentation of Our Lady

This is one of the later Marian feasts to come into the calendar, originating in Jerusalem around 543. It gradually spread to the Western Church, but was put onto the general Roman calendar only in 1585.

A Syrian convert wrote a book called the Protevangelium of James around 150 AD. It is basically a mix of original Gospel accounts of the Infant Jesus mixed with speculation about the early life of Our Lady. There were several of these, mixing in the authentic Gospels, pious thoughts, and outright fantasies.

This feast has its origins in this text, which claims that after Mary’s birth to elderly parents, she was put into the Holy of Holies at the age of three and lived there for nine years. Now we know this is not true – the High Priest himself only went into that sacred space once a year to say the Holy Name of God. The person who wrote this knew little about Judaism, but these books were not meant to be historically accurate. They are a type of ancient literature that both filled popular hunger for more stories about Jesus and Mary, but also used these stories as a teaching tool.


So what does this feast day tell us still?

  1. Mary is a unique individual in human history: she is recognized not only as a perpetual virgin, but also as the New Eve who does not yield to the temptation of sin.

  2. In her unique holiness, in her status as the New Eve, she lived in a state of intimate connection with God Himself, as we were originally meant to be until the Fall.

  3. The Gospel for Marian feasts mixes two separate events together. One is where a Jewish woman uses a typical phrase giving honor to the mother of a rabbi: Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you! This fulfills Mary’s prediction that all generations will call her blessed. But Jesus sets this praise aside, pointing out that it is even more important that people hear His Word and act on it, which of course Mary does throughout her life. The second incident praises Mary of Bethany for listening attentively to the words of Jesus. This reflects another role of Our Lady, who in Luke, chapter 2, ponders the events of her pregnancy and the birth of Christ in her heart. So she is both the one who hears the Word of God and acts on it, and the contemplative, the one who listens closely and incorporates God’s Word into her life. Here she is the model for consecrated laywomen, cloistered nuns, and active Sisters alike.

  4. In the ancient world, little children did not have much honor. A family could lose as many as half of its children, or even more, to various diseases and epidemics. But in the protoevangelium, Mary is honored by her parents from her conception onward. The whole story of putting her in the temple as a three-year old is an early Christian praise of the holiness inherent in children, and the value that children should have for us. In an era where abortion has now led to some of our political leaders actually consenting to the murder of infants born alive, this a poignant reminder of just how we as Christians must value human life.

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  1. The Holy Land is the western edge of Asia. We forget that much of what we do in the Byzantine liturgical tradition is affected by our Asian origins. For example, we bow instead of genuflecting to show honor to the Most Holy Eucharist. A three year old girl still has no value in much of modern Asia, and girl babies are routinely murdered in India and China. There is an area in India of 132 villages that has not seen any girls born alive in a period of three months this year: 216 boys were born, but not one girl was registered. The Church however proclaims in this feast day that this little girl is to be honored, treasured, and seen as very important to the future of the human race, something that the pagans of 150 AD would not have agreed to whatsoever, and apparently a lot of people today would not believe.

  2. Finally this feast day points to a profound central truth for us. The Virgin Mary is shown as living in the temple, a sign that she will become the true temple of God. She will be the living tabernacle, the one in whom the God-Man will live for nine months. Just as all women are affected by pregnancy in various ways, Our Lady is especially changed. Having been the living tabernacle, the only one who can be called Mother of God, she becomes the protector for Jesus along with Saint Joseph. She will teach Christ in His humanity, and advocate first for Him, then once He starts His ministry, advocating for us. We see this begin at the Miracle of Cana, where she presents Jesus with the need of the newlyweds not to be embarrassed at having run out of wine at their reception. Jesus does what she asks, and this is an important sign for us. He will make her our Mother at the Cross, presenting her not just to John but to all of us.

Virgin Mary of The Sign "Znamenie", Orthodox Icon - at Holy Trinity Store

On this day, children are blessed. Again, this affirms the value of children in a world that has become so messed up that there are people who wear shirts saying Thank God For Abortion. Children are not only our future as a nation, and as a Church, but are each made uniquely in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity. Let us ask Our Blessed Mother to continue to pray for us as her children, for the salvation of this country consecrated to her Immaculate Conception, and that as a Church we can once again change attitudes around the world towards all children, born and unborn.

Christ is among us.

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