The Institute for Christian Formation
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The Feast (Memorial) of the
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 21
The November 21st celebration of the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates a story from Mary’s childhood which is not found in our Christian Scriptures, but comes to us from the 2nd century apocryphal “Protoevangelium of James.”  This feast is celebrated on November 21st in honor of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary the New in Jerusalem on November 21st in the year 543.

Our Christian Scriptures do not contain any information or stories about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s conception, birth, or childhood.  Yet these stories are part of our Tradition and have found a place not only in our liturgy, but in art and music of both the East and West.  Most of these stories do come to us from the early apocryphal sources, especially the “Protoevangelium  of  James.”    It is from this
document that we learn, for example, the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, whose feast the church celebrates on July 26th.  This document also tells the story of Mary’s parents taking her to the Temple at the age of three, where she then lived.  It is this Presentation of Mary in the Temple that we celebrate on this November 21st feast.
In Frederica Mathewes-Green’s book,“The Lost Gospel of Mary,”  the first section of the book, “Telling Mary’s Story: The Gospel of Mary,”  is the story of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s life from her conception to the birth of Jesus, as found in the 2nd century document, “Protoevangelium of James.”  Beautiful frescoes of the life of Mary and Jesus, including the scenes of Mary’s early life according to the “Protoevangelium of James,” are still intact at the Chora Monastery Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.  The story of Mary’s life, including her conception and birth, with illustrations based on these frescoes, is available in a children’s book published in the Orthodox tradition, “The Story of Mary, the Mother of God” (by Dora Papademetriou, published in January 2000 by St. Vladimir Seminary Press).
Presentation of the Virgin
17th century, Greek Heritage
Dionysiou Monastery, Mt. Athos
What do you imagine to be the story of Mary’s conception, birth, and childhood? The Temple played a formidable role in the lives of Mary and Jesus.  What role did the Church play in your upbringing and formation? What correlations do you see today for the formation and upbringing of children? Have a discussion around these topics with family and friends.

Talk with children about their perception of Mary’s early life.  What do they think Mary’s life was like as a young child?  Tell them some of the stories, perhaps even using the child’s book mentioned above.

The Apostleship of Prayer has a lovely video reflection, “The First Tabernacle,” on this feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple.