Sunday, 29 November 2009

Andrew Patron of Scotland

Saint Andrew – Patron of Scotlad

Monday 30 November 2009

Cardinal O'Brien urges Scots to learn about their patron saint.

In an article in today’s Sunday Times, Cardinal Keith O'Brien will call on Scots to learn more about their patron, St. Andrew whose feast day will be celebrated tomorrow, 30 November.

Commenting on an opinion poll showing almost half of respondents think St. Andrew was Scottish, the Cardinal describes the finding as "nothing short of alarming" he also adds his voice to calls for a public holiday, saying Scotland must "grasp the thistle and create a national public holiday."

Cardinal O'Brien will celebrate Mass on St. Andrew's Day, at St. Mary's Cathedral, Broughton Street, Edinburgh at 12.45pm.

The full text of the Cardinal's article is shown below.

"The celebration of the feast of St Andrew has taken place in Scotland since earliest times and, indeed, Scotland should feel honoured to have Andrew, a fisherman from Galilee who was Jesus’s second apostle, as its patron saint.

However, how many Scots today are familiar with the religious history and significance of St Andrew? The results of an opinion poll published in this newspaper provide depressing testament to a widespread lack of understanding. In recent years our interest in Andrew has increasingly revolved around the secular idea of a national holiday.

Knowledge of the saint and his life is disappointingly scant, the name Andrew has slipped to 20th place in the current ranking of Scottish boy’s names and the fact that almost a third of young people don’t know who Scotland’s patron saint is and almost half of all Scots questioned in the Sunday Times poll think that St Andrew was Scottish is nothing short of alarming.

While the Catholic Church continues to regard St Andrew’s day as a solemnity or holy day, for most Scots 30th November is a day to be marked in other often disparate ways. Saltires fly on the Forth road bridge, children are encouraged to paint their faces and the Scottish government announces almost half a million pounds towards St Andrew’s Day celebrations, none of which seem to mention or celebrate Andrew himself.

How many of these schoolchildren know what the white cross they paint represents? Or for that matter how many of the politicians who fund these jamborees know who Andrew actually was? Where in our country are the statues of him or memorials in his honour?

For 15 centuries the church has revered and guarded the memory of Andrew. It has respected and upheld his memory preserving it from expropriation and destruction at the hands of reformers, kings and politicians. It is appropriate that civil society should mark the feast day of our patron and fitting that secular events take place, but we would do well to remember that what is seen today as a “holiday” started life as a “holy day” — and, despite the welcome presence of many new faiths in our society, Scotland remains at heart a Christian country.

To turn our national day into a secular event only, would be to eviscerate it completely. It would become no different from the empty bells and jingles that signify Christmas without Christ or the festival of chocolate, which is all that's left of Easter without the resurrection.

St. Andrew’s day, should be Scotland’s national day of prayer, for our nation, our people and our future. We cannot cement this day in our national calendar until we grasp the thistle and create a national public holiday. We must not allow any future generations of Scottish children to grow up in this country without some rudimentary knowledge of their patron.

If we are truly to endorse a curriculum for excellence in our schools it must impart information about our patron to all Scotland’s children. Teachers must be given greater scope to retell the history of our patron saint — our education system should never pander to misguided and baseless fears that in doing so we may upset members of other faiths.

While civic events are useful, spiritual action is crucial. It is in prayer and worship that we truly honour St Andrew. There is no reason why the two cannot be combined. Every year on the feast of St Andrew I celebrate mass in St. Mary’s Cathedral, politicians and civic leaders are always invited and at the end of the celebration one of them is invited to address the congregation. Last year Alex Salmond, our first minister, spoke and this year Jim Murphy, the secretary of state for Scotland, will address us.

This feast day mass has become the spiritual focal point for our national celebrations and I hope it will remain so.

On many occasions in recent years I have spoken about the growth of secularism in our society, St. Andrew’s day gives us an opportunity to counter this with prayers to our patron saint. We should ask for his intercession for the good of our country and in so doing illustrate to all Scots in our increasingly multicultural nation part of the Christian identity and ethos which makes us who we are.

We in Scotland share St Andrew, who is also patron of Russia, Greece, Spain, butchers, and fishermen and among other things, rope makers. He is believed to have been martyred at Patras in Greece on November 30 in the year 60 on a diagonal or saltire cross.

According to legend Saint Regulus was a Greek monk who, in the fourth century, came to Scotland with the bones of Saint Andrew and was shipwrecked on the shores of Fife at the place which is now St Andrews. He acted on a dream in which he was warned to move as many of the saint’s bones to the “ends of the earth” for safekeeping.

The Regulus legend was opportunistically used by mediaeval Scottish kings in an early example of secular powers commandeering religious affairs. It allowed them to authenticate the apostle as patron saint of Scotland, thus giving our nation a top-rank patron saint and a separate identity from England during a period of territorial aggrandisement by our southern neighbour.

In any event by the 11th century, the town of St. Andrews had become a significant pilgrimage centre, visited constantly by thousands of pilgrims. Queen Margaret, endowed a ferry service across the river Forth and hostels, at north and south Queensferry, to meet the needs of these pilgrims.

Today our politicians’ debate plans to build another crossing over the Forth, but it has nothing to do with meeting the needs of pilgrims wishing to venerate our patron.

The saints relics were eventually housed in the great medieval Cathedral of St Andrews. Twice a year they were carried in procession around the town.In June 1559 the interior of St Andrews Cathedral, including the shrine and relics, was destroyed by reformers who had accompanied John Knox to the city.

For more than two centuries Scotland had no tangible link with Andrew until 1879 when the Archbishop of Amalfi gifted one of his relics to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. Ninety years later Pope Paul VI gave my predecessor Cardinal Gordon Joseph Gray a further relic in St Peter’s in Rome in 1969.

In 1982 both these relics were housed in the altar to the north of the High Altar of St Mary’s cathedral, which now serves as the national shrine to St Andrew, successor to the shrine destroyed in 1559. It was here in May 1982 that Pope John Paul II knelt and prayed to Scotland’s patron.

Sadly, little of this fascinating history is widely known in this country. Before we celebrate another St. Andrew’s day, I hope we will have begun to change that. "

Cardinal Keith O'Brien

Advent Season

The ADVENT Season was introduced this morning at the Community Chapter.

The Homily was addressed by Brother Celestine.


The General Norm for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar states that: “The Advent has a two-fold character: as a season to prepare us for Christmas when Christ’s first coming to us is remembered; as a season when that remembrance directs the mind and heart to await Christ’s Second Coming at th

e end of time. Advent is thus a period for devout and joyful expectation.”

Though intrinsically linked with the incarnation of Christ at Christmas, advent really directs our minds and hearts towards the eschatological return of Christ. Initially the word adventus, meaning coming, was synonymous with the fact and the feast of the Incarnation itself, but gradually it came to designate the time just before Christmas.

Just as we recognise that Christmas is not only a commemoration of Christ’s birth as an historical event, but also as the salvific event which brings Christ into the souls of men, so also the Advent designates a time we long for this action to take place in our life. This is aptly expressed by the Oration for the second Sunday of Advent which states: “Stir us up, O Lord, to make ready for your only begotten Son. May we be able to serve you with purity of soul through the coming of him who lives and reigns…”

Not only can the Advent not be understood apart from Christmas, it encompasses the entire mystery of the Incarnation and all that the incarnation implies. Because Christ has come for the first time, he is expected again at the end of time, but in the meantime He is very much present with His Church as he promised. This is the way then we consider the season of advent and Christmas in their full and final achievement. The Advent is at once a commemoration of Christ’s first coming, His presence in the church and an anticipation of His eschatological return when the whole redemptive work will be consummated.

This is the basis for St Bernard’ teaching on the three comings of Christ. This is Christian spirituality’s conception of the Incarnational mystery in the light of its complete and final realization. Between His first and final comings, Christ comes by grace in the heart of men and this coming is a constant phenomenon; it is the very life of the Christian as expressed in the liturgy. This is why the first Sunday continues the eschatological theme begun on the thirty-third Sunday of the Church’s year. It is by living the mystery of Christ’s presence here and now that we prepare to welcome him in the final phase of His coming.

Marked by a spirit of great expectation and preparation, we anticipate the judgement on sin and our calling to accountability before God. Yet unlike those who have no hope, Christians anticipates the arrival of Christ in a profoundly joyous way: It is in the spirit of the bridesmaid who joyously and anxiously await the Bridegroom. By our humble prayers, devotion and commitment we long for the coming King, who will deliver us from all evils. Hence the Church calls out to the Lord, with messianic hope and expectations:

Come, O come Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Advent begins

A-M writes:
Advent is here and I thought I would send you a wee photo to start your advent journey.

Every Saturday I take my Aunt out shopping and as she is in a wheel chair we have a picnic in the car.

Sitting beside Hogganfield Loch today was quite magical as it was very cold and the loch was shrouded in mist.
I don't like birds very much but I was very brave and took a few snaps as they went from feast to feast from
passers by.

Hope you have a Happy and Holy Advent.
God bless now and always.


Gospel: Luke 21 21:25-28, 34-36

From a sermon by Saint Bernard (Sermo 4 in adventu Domini I, 3-4: Opera omnia, Edit. Cist. 4 [1966] 182-185)

Advent celebrates Christ's first coming and his continual presence with the Church. It also looks forward to his final coming when he will complete his work of redemption.

It is surely right that you should celebrate our Lord's coming with all your hearts, and that the greatness of the consolation which his Advent brings us should fill you with joy. Indeed one can only be amazed at the depth of his self-abasement, and stirred up to new fervour by the immensity of his love. But you must not think of his first coming only, when he came to seek and save what was lost; remember that he will come again and take us to himself. It is my desire that you should be constantly meditating upon this two-fold advent, continually turning over in your minds all that he has done for us in the first, and all that he promises to do in the second.

It is time for judgment to begin at the house of God. But what will be the fate of those who do not obey the Gospel? What judgment will be reserved for those who will not submit to the judgment taking place now? In this present judgment the ruler of this world is being cast out, and those who seek to evade it must expect - indeed they must greatly fear - the judge who will cast them out along with him. However, if we are fully judged now, we may safely await the Saviour who is to come, our Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body. Then the just will shine forth so that both learned and simple may see it; they will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

When our Saviour comes he will change our lowly bodies into the likeness of his glorious body, provided that our hearts have been changed and made humble as his was. This is why he said: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart. We may note from this text that humility is two-fold: there is intellectual humility, and a humility of one's whole disposition and attitude, here called the heart. By the first we recognize that we are nothing; we can learn this much of ourselves from our own weakness. The second enables us to trample the glory of the world under our feet, and this we learn from him who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. When the people desired to make him a king, he fled from them; but when they wanted to make him undergo the shame and ignominy of the cross, he gave himself up to them of his own free will.

Margaret Queen of Scots

An early Christmas gift is 'The Favourite Book of the Eleventh-century Queen of Scots'. The publication from the Bodleian Library comes very soon to the 16/11/2009 Post "Margaret of Scotland Marvellous Era".

St Margaret’s Gospel-book

The Favourite Book of the eleventh Queen of Scots.

Rebecca Rushforth

Bodleian Library 2007

Book Jacket synopsis:

A manuscript sold at auction in 1887 for £6 where it was incorrectly described as a fourteenth-century work was discovered on later inspection to be none other than the lost Gospel-book of St Margaret, the eleventh-century Queen of Scotland. St Margaret's Life relates the extraordinary story of how her favourite book of Gospel extracts, encrusted with gold and jewels, was lost while crossing a stream and later retrieved, miraculously unharmed.

A young woman scholar reading the manuscript in the 1980s connected this incident from the Life with the same event described in a poem at the beginning of the newly purchased manuscript and realized that this was St. Margaret's own book.

Rebecca Rushtorth explores St Margaret's life and Gospel-book, placing her in the context of the turbulent political shifts which saw her exile to Scotland after the Norman Conquest, and her marriage to Malcolm; her contribution to the making of Scotland as a European power; and her posthumous career as a saint, in which she was invoked as a force for stability and reconciliation as late as the Restoration.

She describes step-by-step how St. Margaret's Gospel-book was made, exploring the writing, illumination, and binding of the manuscript. She also compares the book with other contemporary gospel books, examining their iconography and production. This work brings to life the story of a highly treasured personal book and the circumstances behind its creation, use, loss, and rediscovery.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Pope on Bernard of Clairvaux 2

A good friend speaks of her great experience of her visit to Rome.

A high-light was her attending the Wednesday Papal Audience.

For someone, already used to visiting the Cistercians at Nunraw Abbey, the address by Pope Benedict XVI on Saint Bernard of Clairvaux had the extra impact.

The full address was previously posted in the Blog earlier. (Pope on Bernard 22 October 2009)

I notice that the Vatican Dossier also had a synopsis of the "Points to Example of St. Bernard" and, in fact, seems simplifies and clarifies. Here .....

ZE09102115 - 2009-10-21


Pope Encourages Personal Relationship With Christ

Points to Example of St. Bernard of Clairvaux

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 21, 2009 ( Only Jesus is "joy to the heart," says Benedict XVI, citing words from St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The Pope reflected today during the general audience on this 12th century saint, highlighting his personal relationship with Christ.

According to the Holy Father, "in a more than decisive way, the abbot of Clairvaux configures the theologian to the contemplative and the mystic. Only Jesus -- insists Bernard in face of the complex dialectical reasoning of his time -- only Jesus is 'honey to the mouth, song to the ear, joy to the heart.'"

Ideas like this one, noted the Pontiff, won the saint his traditional title: "Doctor Mellifluus: his praise of Jesus Christ, in fact, 'runs like honey.'"

Benedict XVI observed that "the abbot of Clairvaux does not tire of repeating that only one name counts, that of Jesus the Nazarene. 'Arid is all food of the soul,' [the saint] confesses, 'if it is not sprinkled with this oil; insipid, if it is not seasoned with this salt. What is written has no flavor for me, if I have not read Jesus.' And he concludes: 'When you discuss or speak, nothing has flavor for me, if I have not heard resound the name of Jesus.'"

The Pope said Bernard's concept of true knowledge of God consists in a "personal, profound experience of Jesus Christ and of his love."

"And this, dear brothers and sisters," he said, "is true for every Christian: Faith is above all a personal, intimate encounter with Jesus, and to experience his closeness, his friendship, his love; only in this way does one learn to know him ever more, and to love and follow him ever more. May this happen to each one of us."

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones



At the opening of the Mass we heard of 'theValley of Dry Bones'. In the language of Ezechiel, in all the Bible, is no better expression of the sound of the rattling of the bones.
In our own choir chant we may feel of the repercusion of the praise of God.
As the breath of the Holy Spirit gave life to dry bones, rather than silence, the repercussions of the Holy Spirit stir us in the singing of the psalmony.

First Reading EZECHIEL 37:1-14

An attack of sneezing knocked me out from the Night Office of Reading.

On Tuesday, the reading of Ezechiel 37: 1-11 could not fail to rivet attention, no matter faltering the voice.

“This is a tremendous vision. Somehow the idea of sound is better expressed in Ezekiel than in other sacred writers . . .”

The Second Reading was by Hubert Van Zeller.

Ezechiel: Ronlad Knox translation, commentary Hubert van Zeller

By association of Scripture and Commentary, I have linked Van Zeller’s writing with the friend’s translation in Ronald Knox’s translation.

The Knox Old Testament is not available Onlne.

It is thrilling to discover an Online version of New Testament by the Ronald Knox Society website at

EZECHIEL 37 - The Valley of dry bones

1 The Lord's power laid hold of me, and by the spirit of the Lord I was carried away and set down in the midst of the plain, which was covered with bones.

2 Round the whole extent of them he took me, where they lay thick on the

plain, all of them parched quite dry.

3 Son of man, he said, can life return to these bones? Lord God, ·said I, thou knowest.

4 Then he bade me utter a prophecy over the bones:

5 Listen, dry bones, to the word of the Lord. A message to these bones from the Lord: I mean to send my spirit into you, and restore you to life.

6 Sinews shall be given you, flesh shall grow on you, and skin cover you; and I will give you breath to bring you to life again; will you doubt, then, the Lord's power?

7 So I prophesied as he had bidden me and as I prophesied a sound came and I felt a stirring, and the bones came together, each at its proper joint; under my eyes the sinews and the flesh clothed them, and the skin covered them, but there was no breath in them even now.

8 Son of man he said, prophesy now to the breath of life:

give the breath of life itself this message from the Lord God:

9 Come, breath of life from the four winds, and breathe on these slain men to make them live.

10 So I prophesied as he had bidden me and the breath of life came into them, so that they lived again; and all rose to their feet, host upon host of them.

11 Then he told me Son of man, in these bones here thou seest the whole race of Israel. They are complaining that their very bones have withered away that all hope is lost, they are dead men.

Translation: Ronald Knox

Second Reading

From Ezekiel, Man of Signs, by Hubert van Zeller

This is a tremendous vision. Somehow the idea of sound is better expressed in Ezekiel than in other sacred writers - Nahum not excepted. Between the sky-cracking claps of thunder we can hear the rattle of bones as they come together with the impact of obedience. Not an empty socket, not a finger-bone out of place. There is no mention of rain but we feel sure that a downpour followed close upon the thunder and the earthquakes; we seem to hear the water beating down upon the parched valley until eddies of it swirl and bubble round the ankles of an innumerable army of hitherto dry skeletons. But only for a minute are they skeletons. And I saw, and behold the sinews and flesh came upon them, and the skin was stretched out over them ... but there was no spirit in them.

There they stood, these bodies, simply waiting to become alive. The spirit only was wanting. Surely there is a link here between Ezekiel and Genesis? It is as if a repetition of God's creative act were needed for the restoration of the body of the faithful ... the material is prepared, but for the making of the new human being there must be the breath of God. And is there not also a purely symbolical interpretation to the progressive bestowal of life? Often enough there is the body of religion when at the same time the soul is lacking: knowledge has seen to it that every sinew is in position and that there is skin to cover the frame, but that is as far as it has got. Love is absent. And it is the spirit of Love - God's Spirit - which gives life.

And I prophesied as he had commanded me, and the spirit came into them and they lived. A rush of air swept down upon the lifeless bodies and they lived. We can imagine a great silence following. We see a great host of people standing silent before the face of God. "Can bones live again?" we imagine the Lord repeating to his prophet in the stillness. "Lord, you know" would be the whispered reply, and this time would be added - "that they can."

The whole thing is so short: eleven verses. And what are not its possible applications? It can stand for dead souls as well as dead races; it can apply to an ideal that has been scattered and wasted as well as to a faith that has dried up in the valley of the soul. It can apply to a devotion or a friendship or a project or a prayer; it can apply to anything that has petered out under the glare of the sun. But the bones can live again. We may not say, as Judah said, We are dried up, our hope is lost. Our hope is not lost, we are not cut off permanently.

Thus when we hear the invocation "send forth your Spirit and they shall be created, and you will renew the face of the earth" we can recall the vision of Ezekiel. We can recall also its fulfillment. God did send forth his Spirit, his people were created anew, and face of the earth smiled beneath the sunshine of his favor.

Responsory Ps 104:30; Wis 1:7

When you send forth your Spirit they are created, and + you renew the face of the earth.

V. The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world.+ You renew ...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Lumen Christi


On this morning, the Feast of Christ the King, I took up the Opus Magnus of Dom Laurence of Roscrea. It was a magnificent gift to Nunraw from Roscrea, the Mother House.

“Lumen Christi, The Stained Glass Windows of Mount Saint Joseph Abbey” is a splendid collection of the photographic reproductions of the stained glass windows of the monastery- in a weighty volume of 237 pages, each with quality pictures, even in the case of the pencil and blue wash sketch for ‘Christ the King’.

As Dom Laurence studied and contemplated these works for over the 50 years of his time at the abbey, gives others access to the experience of these sacred views.

This morning I wondered where to begin to enjoy profuse richness of this visual feast.

The Contents has the excellent pathway laid out by the “1953 of the Church and Guide to the Windows”. For my immediate interest of today, ‘Christ the King’, I found low in the Contents something called “Might Have Been”.

‘Christ of King’ is one of the “Might Have Been” holy ambitions in the north transept of the Church.

At this point, it may seem rather low profile beside the profusion of completed windows, it served very well, on the Feast of Christ the King, to set out for the wonders that follow the many days of later interest and contemplation.

Christ the King

Sunday, 22nd November 2009-11-22

Our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

Community Chapter Talk by Br. Barry (Used to be called Solemnity of Sermon).


‘Armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience,

do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord’.

When the Rule of Saint Benedict speaks of Christ, the emphasis is on his divine nature. This can be seen in the Rule’s use of quotations from the psalms; often, where ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ appears in the psalm extract, it is clear from the context that St.Benedict means these words to refer to Christ. This outlook was influenced by historical circumstances: the struggle against heresies which denied the full divinity of Christ.

In this day and age it seems that we are back in the same situation. There are many spiritual seekers today who acknowledge Christ as one of the great inspired figures of all time on a par with the Buddha and the like. This is the attitude of ‘all religions and wisdom traditions are all basically the same’.

It appears then, that at the present time, an emphasis on the divinity of Christ is once again necessary. That of course is not to downplay or ignore his humanity any more than St. Benedict did – the Rule urges the monk to imitate the humility of Christ - but the history of the Church shows that in any given age one aspect or the other comes to the fore.

How does the monk enclosed in his monastery bear witness to the divinity of Christ ? The pat answer is, by being faithful to his vocation. But can something more than that be said ?

Cistercians have a special feast which can guide their every approach to Christ: the feast of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, hosts of the Lord. We all know how St.Bernard interprets this in terms of the three types of monks to be found in monasteries. He also points out in the same sermon that ideally all three types should be found in each monk.

However, the three hosts are not merely types or personifications or ymbols. They are living persons, saints in heaven who can help us, each with the special grace that marked their lives. Martha will always be associated with work and service. Mary, in her listening to the Lord and in her dramatic devotion helps in lectio and in personal devotions and Lazarus – Lazarus is THE close friend of Jesus, so much so that some Scripture scholars believe that he is none other than the Beloved Disciple of the Fourth Gospel himself. When the monk is about his most characteristic business, the chanting of the psalms, that is when Christ recognises a familiar face just as he did whenever he visited Bethany. In this way, there is no danger that the elements of monastic life will ever seem to be just dutiful steps towards a distant God. They become communion with Christ in the company of his familiar friends. The message that shines out from the household at Bethany, like a lighted window in the night, is the message of monastic life too: the more familiar we become with Christ, the more we are aware of his divine nature.

‘The divinity of the Word Incarnate is the foundation of Christ’s empire over men’ states the Encyclical Letter which ordained today’s feast. When WE act as hosts of the Lord in the daily round, we also see that he is ‘the Immortal King of the Ages’. This is because the daily round in the monastery passes according to monastic time, not ordinary or worldly time. Monastic time is time that is coloured by the search for God. That is why there is so little free choice in the use of time in the monastery. Passing the time just as you please belongs to ordinary, worldly time.

Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived their lives within this monastic time. Thus we see Martha making full use of her time. We see Mary oblivious of time in her concern for the one thing necessary and we see Lazarus cheating time in returning from the dead.

The feast of Christ the King was instituted specifically as ‘a remedy for the plague of secularism’. One of the symptoms of this plague is that ‘the religion of Christ is likened to false religions and placed on the same level with them’. Those who rate Christ highly as one of the ‘greats’ of humanity but no more than that, well, they are on the right road. If only they would press on to believe in order to understand – as the famous expression has it – instead of trying to understand everything before they will believ

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Presentation of the Virgin Mary

At this Mass of the day of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple, we remembered the anniversary of the First Abbot of Nunraw Abbey,
Dom Columban Mulcahy.
On this day of 1948, Columban received the Abbatial Blessing.

I find the following Post beautifully informative on the Feast.
I feel that I must learn more regarding Emperor Justinian's Temple of Jerusalem, and the writings of St. Germanus and St John Damasus.

Historians tell us that the Emperor Justinian built a splendid church dedicated to Mary in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was dedicated on November 21, 543 but was destroyed by the Persians within a century. Many of the early church Fathers such as St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (+730) and St. John Damascene, his contemporary, preached magnificent homilies on this feast referring to Mary as that special plant or flower which was being nurtured for better things." She was planted in the House of God, nourished by the Holy Spirit and kept her body and soul spotless to receive God in her bosom. He Who is all-holy rests among the holy."

Presentation of the Virgin Mary

Many of the celebrations in honour of Mary are based in historical fact. The Sacred Scriptures tell of her acceptance of God's invitation to be the mother of the Saviour at the Annunciation. We know of her maternity and of her faithfulness to her son, Jesus, even standing at the side of his cross.

The Scriptures tells us nothing of Mary's hidden life. The inspired Word of God gives us no word about her Presentation in the Temple, the feast which we celebrate each year on November 21st. However, we do have the testimonies of tradition which are based on accounts which come to us from apostolic times. That which is known about the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple is found in the Apocrypha, principally in chapter seven of the Protoevangelium of James, which has been dated by historians prior to the year 200 AD.

This book gives us a detailed account in which Mary's father, Joachim, tells Anna his wife that he wishes to bring their child to the Temple of the Lord. Anna responds that they should wait until the child is three years old lest she yearn for her parents. When the day arrived, the undefiled daughters of the Hebrews were invited to accompany Mary with their lamps burning to the Temple. There the priest received her, blessed her, and kissed her in welcome. He proclaimed, "The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of Israel." Mary was placed on the third step of the Temple and there danced with joy and all the house of Israel loved her. It was there that she was nurtured and her parents returned, glorifying the Almighty.

This story is a legend with no foundation in history and the point of the story is to show that even in her childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. However, it is from this very account that arose the feast of Mary's Presentation.

Historians tell us that the Emperor Justinian built a splendid church dedicated to Mary in the Temple area in Jerusalem. It was dedicated on November 21, 543 but was destroyed by the Persians within a century. Many of the early church Fathers such as St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (+730) and St. John Damascene, his contemporary, preached magnificent homilies on this feast referring to Mary as that special plant or flower which was being nurtured for better things." She was planted in the House of God, nourished by the Holy Spirit and kept her body and soul spotless to receive God in her bosom. He Who is all-holy rests among the holy."

We know that in the Byzantine Church this feast is considered one of the twelve great feasts of the liturgical year, called the Dodecaorton. Scholars believe that Mary's Presentation in the Temple is considered a major feast for the Eastern churches celebrating the same values that the Western church celebrates in the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It appears that this feast was not celebrated in Rome at the time of Pope St. Sergius (+701) who established four other principle feasts dedicated to Mary. By the ninth century it is celebrated in the monasteries of southern Italy which had been influenced by the traditions of the Byzantine churches. By the fourteenth century it had spread to England and it is recorded that it was celebrated in Avignon, France in 1373. Its acceptance is considered very slow and it was not until the year 1472 that Pope Sixtus IV extended its celebration to the universal church.

Pope Paul VI in the 1974 encyclical Marialis Cultus, n.8, wrote of this feast that "despite its apocryphal content, it presents lofty and exemplary values and carries on the venerable traditions having their origins in the Eastern churches."

(Courtesy )