On Wednesday, the 21st of November, we celebrate the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ancient traditions in the church, as attested in such works as the Protoevangelium of James, hold that when the Blessed Virgin was only 3 years old, she was offered by her parents Joachim and Anna to God at the temple in Jerusalem, where she lived until the age of 12. Joachim and Anna had been afflicted by childlessness, and, in gratitude for Mary, they offered their precious daughter back to the Lord in thanksgiving for all He had done for them. In doing so they were following the illustrious example of Old Testament saints such as Elkanah and Hannah, who were similarly afflicted with childlessness, and who likewise offered their son Samuel to the priest Eli when God heard their prayers (1 Samuel 1-3).
Samuel, who had been born as an answer to the prayers of his distressed parents Elkanah and Hannah, grew up to become a powerful prophet who brought the word of God to Israel. Mary, who was also given to her parents as an answer to their prayers, was destined by the Most High to be not merely a prophet who brings the prophetic word of God to Israel but the great Mother of God who would bring the incarnate Word of God Himself to the entire world. In both cases, God saw fit to prepare Mary and Samuel for their special missions by arranging that they grow up in the most intimate proximity to sacred worship. Through such religious training, Mary and Samuel would have their entire lives consecrated to the great missions that lay before them.
Like Mary and Samuel, we too have a mission from God. Our mission on this earth may not be as lofty as that of Samuel or Mary, but in our own way we are called to imitate Samuel in bringing the prophetic word of the Gospel to the modern world, and to imitate Mary in being channels of God’s mercy for sinners. Like Samuel and Mary, we need special training to be able to accomplish this task. It is to supply us with this training that Christ established His Holy Catholic Church. By her sacred liturgy, Holy Mother Church teaches us to lift up our hearts to our Creator, the only One in Whom we may find eternal rest. Nowhere does this lifting up of our hearts happen more than in the Holy Eucharist. The next time we approach our Lord at the holy sacrifice of the Mass, let us remember the great mission of evangelization that He has called us to, and let us entrust ourselves to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that through her intercession we may receive the strength to carry out that mission faithfully.
-Br. Athanasius Thompson, O.P.
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