The Presentation of Mary commemorates Mary’s parents dedicating her to the temple when she was 3.

The Story of the Presentation of Mary

The earliest account of Mary’s presentation is from the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James, which was written prior to 200 AD.

Saints Joachim and Anne chose to dedicate their daughter Mary in thanksgiving to God. This parallels the story of Hannah giving away her son Samuel to the Lord.

When Mary turned 3, they led her to the Temple where she walked up into the arms of the high priest Zacharis. He exclaimed:

The Lord has magnified your name in all generations. In you, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel.

After blessing her, he set her down on the third step of the Temple and the grace of God fell upon her.

Tradition also says that she remained in the Temple for her education, dedicated to the Lord, until she was 12.

Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple by Pietro Testa (1641 - 1643)
Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple by Pietro Testa (1641 – 1643)

Liturgical Origins for the Presentation of Mary

The oldest liturgical foundations are in the 11th century Menology of Basil II. This text helped guide the liturgy in the Eastern Church, with this one created for the Emperor Basil II (c. 958 – 1025). In the Eastern Churches, the Presentation is one of the 12 Great Feasts with the name “Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple.”

The Western Church first brought in the feast in 1372 in the Papal Chapel in Avignon. For the next few centuries, the Catholic Church slowly integrated it into the liturgy. Pope Sixtus V added it in fully in 1585. Today, the feast is celebrated on November 21st.

Why Celebrate the Presentation of Mary?

The feast commemorates Mary’s holiness and dedication to God, starting with her Immaculate Conception. It also prepares her for her upcoming vocation as the Mother of God.

Although the feast is only based on tradition rather than history, the Catholic Church still joins the Eastern Churches in celebrating Mary’s dedication to God, from the her conception to her Assumption.