Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple.


The Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple

Image: Catholic Church Conservation blogspot

The feast itself originates in the east, where it is recorded in the sixth century and is specifically referred to by the Emperor Michael VIII Comnenus in 1166,  rather than in the west, where it arrived in the 1370s, as is explained in an illustrated article which can be read here, together with an explanation of its meaning as a festival.   

The emphasis in the liturgy of the day is not only on the Blessed Virgin's consecraton to God, but also on the place of the Temple, both physical and spiritual, in the life of the people of God. As a feast it became universal with the 1570 Missal and a decree of Pope Sixtus V in 1585.

The source of the feast is however much more ancient, arising from the account given in the second century text of the Protoevangelium of St James, or, as it is sometimes known, the Gospel of St James. There is an account of this text which can be read here.

Although it has never been accounted canonical by the Church the Protoevangelium is nonetheless very early as a text, and cannot therefore be dismissed as a later medieval doctrinal excressence. it is the earliest Marian text outsid ethe Gospels, and narrates the stry of her birth and later upbringing in the Temple community and her betrothal to St Joseph. Some scholars have certainly opined that its origins  do indeed lie in the teaching of St James the Less as Bishop of Jerusalem in the first century. The text of the Protoevangelium can be read in translation here.

No comments: