[November 21]
by Leonard Goffine, 1871

What is this festival?

This a festival set apart by the Church for the commemoration of the day on which the blessed Virgin Mary, then in her most tender childhood, was offered by her pious parents to the Lord in the temple, and on which Mary consecrated's herself forever to God's service.

How did this take place?

The parents of the blessed Virgin had promised, as we learn by tradition, to offer the child which God would give them, to His service in the temple. Mary, at the same time, child as she was, enlightened by divine inspiration had offered herself wholly to the Lord, consecrating herself unreservedly to His love and service. She knew also, that her parents had made a vow to dedicate her to the service of God, for it was an old custom with the Jews to place their daughters in one of the rooms surrounding the temple, there to be well educated by saintly women, as now did Joachim and Anne their holy child. As Mary, though only three years of age, knew of her parents' vow, she intended, as St. Germanus and Epiphanius testify, to solemnly dedicate herself to God in the temple; she therefore entreated her parents to take her to the temple and fulfil their promise to God, after which, as St. Gregory of Nyssa tells us, St. Anne no longer delayed accompanying her to the temple and offering her to God. Mary, like a graceful dove, hastened on the wings of desire in advance; simple and without external show was her entrance into the temple, but innumerable heavenly spirits celebrated this festival, and the Most High looked down with pleasure upon this purest and holiest sacrifice ever offered in His temple. The three holy persons fell on their faces and adored the living God; the parents in deepest humility, adoration, and reverence offered Him their daughter, and Mary gave thanks to the God of Israel, that He had given her the grace to "serve Him, and to give herself to Him to be His handmaid forever. Then Joachim and Anne gave their beloved child to the priest Zacharias (S. Germ. Greg, de Nicom) who presided over the holy service, who, having offered prayers and sacrifices for her, led her to that part of the temple where the maidens dedicated to God's service were educated. Here Mary shone as a model for all the maidens who were with her in the temple, and she shines still for all who, like her, consecrate their virginity to the Lord, and devote themselves wholly and entirely to this service.

INSTRUCTION. I. How wonderfully noble were the minds of Mary's parents, which enabled them to deprive themselves of their beloved child for the love of God, offering her to Him, the Most High, willingly leaving her in the temple for His holy service! True love of God is ready for any sacrifices, prepared to do whatever He requires.

Parents! God does not require from all of you, that you, like Joachim and Anne, should dedicate your children in a special manner to Him, but He does require of you all, that you see in your children the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that you should guard them from every stain of sin. From their earliest youth you should, if you wish for joy in your children, train them for God' service, changing your dwelling into God's temple by a Christian life.

II. Mary, even in her tenderest childhood, offers up and consecrates herself; she gives herself unreservedly and irrevocably to God. When shall we give ourselves in earnest to God? We are offered to Him in baptism, it is true, and made His consecrated temple; we then renounced the world and the devil; we then bound ourselves to live for God only, and we have, since then, renewed our baptismal covenant with God. But have we kept to it? Have we not with one hand stolen that, which with the other we offered to God? Have we not profaned with shameful desires the temple of our heart? Have we not lived more for ourselves, for the world, for vanity than for God? When then will we truly give ourselves to God? In our old age perhaps? But will God, after we have spent our youth and strength in the service of the world, sin, and the devil, accept the offering of our weak, feeble body, of our sinbound soul? Will He be satisfied to have us willing to serve Him, when we can no longer serve the world? if we commence to live for God, only when we commence to die? God is a jealous God, He is not satisfied with a heart divided between Him and creatures. He wishes to be loved with the whole heart, with the whole soul, and with all one's strength. And thus He deserves to be loved; it is only such perfect love as this that He can reward, for He wishes to give Himself entirely to us, as we give ourselves entirely to Him, without reserve, for Christ says: If any one love me, my father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. (John xiv. 23.)

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who hast pleased that blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, become an abode for the Holy Ghost, should this day be presented to Thee in the temple: grant, by her intercession, that we may be presented before Thy divine Majesty in the temple of God. Through etc.

PRAYER TO MARY. O Mary, most pleasing offering in the sight of God, prepare my heart to be a worthy and acceptable offering to God. Obtain for me, that from henceforth there may arise no thought of my heart, no word of my mouth, no action of mine, which may not tend to my neighbor's good. Obtain for me, that my heart may be at all times turned towards God, and that I may do nothing negligently that concerns God's honor and my own salvation. Take from me my own perverted will, and obtain me a will like thine, that I may satisfactorily perform all my duties, and in everything be obedient to the commands of God. Amen.

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple

Let us adore the Holy Spirit inspiring Mary, whilst she was still a child, with the resolution to leave her family and all the pleasures of the domestic hearth, in order to shut herself up in the solitude of the Temple, and there lead a life of entire devotion to God and in God. Let us congratulate the Blessed Virgin on her perfect correspondence to grace, and let us rejoice at seeing her, whilst she was so young, already so great a saint.

Mary Teaches Us to Give Ourselves to God without Delay

There were in the appurtenances of the "Temple at Jerusalem two kinds of monasteries, where were received children of both sexes who were dedicated to God by their parents, as is proved by the example of the youthful Samuel, and of Anne, the daughter of Phanuel. They were occupied there, according to their sex, either in the functions of the holy place or in its decoration, and in keeping in good condition the sacred vestments. Venerable priests were appointed for the education of the boys, and the girls were under the supervision of holy women filled with the spirit of wisdom--a true picture of our Religious Communities, shining with innocence and virtue. Mary was only at the entrance of life--she was hardly three years old--when she asked her parents to permit her to go and shut herself up in this holy asylum; they, knowing that children belong to God before belonging to their father and mother, consent to her wishes: and immediately the tender infant, docile to the voice of the heavenly Spouse who calls her (Ps. xliv. 11), betakes herself to Jerusalem. Her feet can hardly carry her before she ascends the steps of the Temple. Her tongue is scarcely loosed before she confidently pronounces the holy engagement of belonging to God alone. It is a beautiful lesson for parents, teaching them to form their children for piety from their very earliest years, and to give them to God when He asks them, whether it be that He calls them to the religious state, or that He withdraws them from this world to place them in His paradise. It is a beautiful lesson for childhood and youth, which teaches them to consecrate to God the first-fruits of their life. A beautiful lesson also Christians, which tells them not to put to a later period their leading a better life. Let us begin this very day to lead the life in which we should like to die.

Let us transport ourselves in spirit to the Temple at Jerusalem, where Mary, after consecration, wished to dwell entirely shut up, in order there to lead a wholly celestial life.

Let us consider 1st, What the life of Mary in the Temple was in regard to God. We commit two great offenses against God: they consist in forgetfulness and want of respect. We only think of God at rare intervals, and when we do think of Him we treat Him without reverence, at prayer, in church, everywhere, since He is everywhere. It was otherwise with Mary in the Temple. There God occupied all her thoughts, filled all her affections, so that the whole world was as nothing to her, or rather served her only as steps by which to raise herself to God. She honored God in her superiors, she loved Him in her companions, she admired Him in the splendor of the skies, in the verdure of plants, in the beauty of flowers. If she spoke, it was of God and for God; if she worked or read, if she took a walk, if she granted her body food and repose, it was in order to please God, who willed that it should be thus. And who could give expression to the profound reverence with which this habitual remembrance of God was accompanied: What recollection in all her senses, what modesty in the whole of her deportment! When she prayed, with what humility did she not abase her nothingness in presence of the divine greatness, like a poor servant before the most august of masters (Luke i. 38)! With what confidence and abanment she poured forth her soul into heart of God! Let us encourage ourselves to imitate the life Mary led Temple.

Let us consider 2d, what the life of Mary was in regard to her neighbor. How beautiful was it to see Mary in the Temple in her relations with her superiors and her companions! With regard to the first, what respect, what docility, what obedience, did she not show, not only to their commands, but to their slightest wishes. With the second, what charity, what gentleness, what forethought, what delicate attentions, did she not manifest! Never did she show any rudeness of manner; never did she indulge in a sharp word or a critical remark; never did she allow herself to enter into any disputes or permit herself to contradict others, because she loved better to yield through condescension than to gain a victory at the expense of meekness; never was her behavior cold and careless; she always had an amiable welcome for everyone; she was gentle and gracious, always ready to render a service and to oblige others, not through natural kindness and sympathy or through human love, but from a sentiment of faith, from love to God, whom she loved and served in the person her neighbor. Such a beautiful example embellshed and sanctified the community, leading all hearts to God, and the edification was universal. It is thus that Mary teaches us charity toward our neighbor.

"The life of Mary was such as to serve as a model for all."--St. Ambrose

Litany of Loretto

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.

God, the Father of heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us.*

Holy Mother of God, pray for us.

Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.

Mother of Christ, pray for us.

Mother of divine grace, pray for us.

Mother most pure, pray for us.

Mother most chaste, pray for us.

Mother inviolate, pray for us.

Mother undefiled, pray for us.

Mother most amiable, pray for us.

Mother most admirable, pray for us.

Mother of good counsel, pray for us.

Mother of our Creator, pray for us.

Mother of our Savior, pray for us.

Virgin most prudent, pray for us.

Virgin most venerable, pray for us.

Virgin most renouned, pray for us.

Virgin most powerful, pray for us.

Virgin most merciful, pray for us.

Virgin most faithful, pray for us.

Mirror of justice, pray for us.

Seat of wisdom, pray for us.

Cause of our joy, pray for us.

Spiritual vessel, pray for us.

Vessel of honor, pray for us.

Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.

Mystical rose, pray for us.

Tower of David, pray for us.

Tower of ivory, pray for us.

House of gold, pray for us.

Ark of the covenant, pray for us.

Gate of heaven, pray for us.

Morning star, pray for us.

Health of the sick, pray for us.

Refuge of sinners, pray for us.

Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.

Help of Christians, pray for us.

Queen of Angels, pray for us.

Queen of Patriarchs, pray for us.

Queen of Prophets, pray for us.

Queen of Apostles, pray for us.

Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.

Queen of Confessors, pray for us.

Queen of Virgins, pray for us.

Queen of all Saints, pray for us.

Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us.

Queen assumed into heaven, pray for us.

Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.

Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us O Lord.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, unto us Thy servants, that we may rejoice in continual health of mind and body; and, by the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever Virgin, may be delivered from present sadness, and enter into the joy of Thine eternal gladness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.