The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin – Day of Consecration
“Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one and come” [Cant. 2:10].
We have seen how Mary was pure from every stain, and how her infant years were filled with God’s grace; we are now to contemplate the fruits of her early sanctity in her immediate and entire consecration to the service of her Maker. The Fathers tell us that the holy parents of the Blessed Virgin has made a covenant with God that the child, for whom they had so long prayed, should be dedicated to His service. When, therefore, so unexpectedly they received an answer to their prayers, they were not backward to fulfill their promise. Although the wonderful holiness and surpassing loveliness of their child had endeared her to their hearts, yet they could not resist the claim of God. They had nearly finished their earthly course, and full of faith in the covenant made with their fathers, were almost ready to find their rest in the bosom of Abraham, yet they were ready to give up the solace and glory of their declining days, content to make any sacrifice to which the Divine Providence called them. No parents had ever made such a sacrifice, and it was their consolation that they gave all they had to God, and that in so doing they made the most acceptable offering His Divine Majesty had ever received. They knew the value of their offering in their own eyes, but they did not then know its full value in the eyes of God. So he who walks by faith and in all things seeks only God, may often find that his feeble works have a value far beyond his imagination. Sacrifices cheerfully made are the highest proof that we are under the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
When the Blessed Virgin was only three years old, following her own wish and the Divine Inspiration, St. Joachim and St. Anne set out from Nazareth for Jerusalem. They took the holy child in their arms, and hastened to bear her to the altar of God. It was a long journey at their advanced age, yet He Who was their guide was their support. They were consoled in their bereavement by the hope of the redemption of Israel, which was far nearer than their faith divined. They entered the temple and presented their offering at the foot of the holy altar. The priest, who, according to tradition, was Zachary, the father of St. John the Baptist, received the child and offered her to God. The Blessed Virgin was filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost, and anticipating the act of her parents, she made a solemn consecration of herself to the service of her Creator. All her gifts, and all her faculties of soul and body, had ever been devoted to God, but now before men and angels she makes the open profession of her love. Here, according to the testimony of the Fathers, she made her vow of virginity, choosing rather to renounce her hope of being the Mother of the Messiah, than to give up the imperishable glory of her immaculate purity. What was the world to her? Nothing human had power to draw her heart from Heaven and the world of grace in which she lived. She heard the voice of her celestial Spouse: “Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.” “One is my dove, my perfect one is but one; she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her and declared her most blessed, the queens and concubines, and they praised her. Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array” [Cant. 6:8-9].
It is an unspeakable consolation to think of the great joy which God received on this auspicious day. No created thing had ever paid Him such honor. Angels in all their purity had prostrated themselves, and cherubim and seraphim had veiled their faces before His unapproachable Majesty, yet never had He received a worship as acceptable as this worship of Mary. She was pure as the crystal water of Paradise, and as she knelt in all humility, all Heaven seemed to rest upon her, and the three Persons of the Eternal Trinity were bowed in condescension upon that little child. Wonderful spectacle, full of joy both for Heaven and for earth. God accepted her vow, and received her for His own, and she became the Queen of that Virgin train that “follow the Lamb withersoever He goeth.”
There are two important lessons for us to learn on this day. God requires us to consecrate ourselves to His service, and to do it with the dispositions which made Mary’s offering so acceptable. In whatever state we are called to work out our salvation, consecration is the essence of the religious life. God demands our hearts, and will accept nothing less from us. We are consecrated by baptism and emancipated from the tyranny of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thrice happy are they who can retire from all things earthly, to espouse themselves, like Mary, to Him Whom the angels serve. Yet, in every walk, the Christian life is essentially the same. We cannot hope to save our souls except our consecration be entire. And this embraces the devotion of our affections and the oblation of every faculty of soul and body. We cannot serve God and the world, or hope to win Heaven when our affections are fastened on earthly things. And how few are there in any walk of life who are equal to this consecration! The world is ever interfering between our souls and God, and we are easy victims to its snares. We try to persuade ourselves that we are living for Heaven, while in reality every day augments our account of pride and self-will, and human respect. No one but God can sound the depths of deceit and self-seeking, which are found in the human heart. Let us pray our Lord to prove and try us, and to see if “there be any way of iniquity in us, and to lead us in the way eternal.”
But we are bound not only to consecrate ourselves to God with the perfect devotion of every faculty; we are also called to imitate the dispositions of our Blessed Mother. She gave everything to God, and she gave all immediately, reserving no will of her own. Her heavenly Master called, and she obeyed without consulting with flesh and blood. So when we make our offering we should place no limitations to our gift. We should reserve nothing, no creature, no corner of our hearts. God may take us at our word, and then we should leave all in His hands, convinced that His will can only work out our highest good. This is the royal road of sanctification. And when He speaks to our souls we should listen to His voice. It is the music of Heaven. And when we hear we should instantly obey. O, what heights of virtue are within our reach! What numberless graces all depending upon our consent! The more carefully we listen, the more often God will speak, until at last He becomes our ever-present Guide, making all our repose, and peace, and happiness. Let us come, then, today to Mary’s altar with our oblation. Let us place ourselves in her hands. Let us ask for the same spirit of consecration which she had, and beg of her to present us before her Son. To Him let our future lives be dedicated. For Him let us breathe every breath, speak every word, and do every action. He will accept repentance for the past, if there be only a steady will for the present, and a firm resolve for the future. Let us say with the royal psalmist: “For what have I in Heaven, and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth? For Thee my flesh and my heart have fainted away. Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion forever” [Ps. 72:26].