On the 21st of November, the Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary to honour Mary and her lifelong dedication to God.
Much of what we know about the infancy of the Virgin Mary and what we celebrate in this feast comes from an apocryphal text known as the Protoevangelium of James. According to this text, Joachim and Anne were childless until God heard their prayers: “As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.”
Mary was then conceived, born, and, at the age of three, offered to the Lord to work and live in the Temple under the supervision of some women. When Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and before they were married, she was given one last task to complete: she was in charge of knitting a new Temple veil.
The Temple veil was the only physical barrier that separated the Holy of Holiest–the space where God lived–from the rest of the Temple. Only the High Priest could trespass that veil once a year. The veil was knitted with threads of different colours and materials: gold, white linen, and blue and purple silk. Together, they represented the whole material world. Trespassing this veil was like abandoning the material world and entering into a new dimension, the realm of the divine. This veil was, in a way, a barrier between the people and God, but at the same time, a sign of his presence.
We know from the Gospels that at the moment when Jesus gave up his Spirit on the cross, the veil knitted by the hands of his mother was torn in half. (If you feel like all your work and efforts are consistently spoiled by your children, now you know you are not on your own.) There is, however, a beautiful prophecy in this. Mary built the last veil of the Temple in Jerusalem but also gave a body to the Son of God: the physical body that veiled the presence of the divine but at the same time made him more present and brought him closer to us than he had ever been. When the veil of his body was torn on the cross, the veil of the Temple split, too; the Spirit of God was no longer in the Temple nor in the dead body of Christ, but it had been poured onto the Church.
Fr Daniel Herrero
Should we be sad or glad?
It is a paradox of the Christian faith that death brings both sadness and hope. The sadness of the loss of loved ones; the hope that life is not a journey to nowhere. It is often said that we shed more tears for ourselves at our loss rather than for the one who has died. Our tears cannot help the dead, but we know they do help us. Our prayers, though, can help the dead on the journey into eternity. And it is true that sometimes our tears are the only prayer we can make.
Death, then, is a journey to the promised land of eternal life. This hope is founded in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. As life goes on, we become increasingly aware of how fleeting it is and how precarious is our hold over it. Thinking about death can be a positive thing. How do we want to be remembered? Reflecting on our mortality can result in a true love of life. When we are familiar with death, we accept each day as a gift. By facing our mortality, we are put in touch with eternal life. Death is a passage to a new life, which, as Jesus says in the Gospel, utterly transcends the life we know now.
We are constantly passaging: the passage from the womb to the world; the passage from school to work or college; the passage from selfishness to love. Death is not the enemy we often think, who puts an end to everything, but a friend who takes us by the hand and leads us into the kingdom of eternal love. Should we be sad or glad? I suppose that depends on how you have lived.
Mgr Jim Curry
Every Sunday, Mgr Jim Curry provides updates on the parish.