November 21 is the Memorial of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary. This event is illustrated in one of the windows over the St. Anne altar in the church. Although we have no historical verification that this happened, in apocryphal literature it is told that Anne and Joachim, grateful that God had blessed them with a child, offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three. It was a way of consecrating her life to God, and is similar to Samuel being presented in the Temple when he was three (1 Sam 1:24), and the Presentation of Jesus when he was an infant (Luke 2:22-23). It was customary for first born sons to be presented to God in this way and may have been a practice for first born children who were girls, also.
In the window, Anne is presenting Mary, who is being received by the priest. Anne’s hands suggest this act of offering, of letting go of her daughter, so that God’s will might be done in her life. Mary has ascended steps into the Temple and the sanctuary lamp, a symbol of God’s presence shines upon her. Later in her life, God’s presence will enter her more fully as she conceives and carries the Son of God, the Savior. The suggestion of crosses in the background foreshadow the redemptive act of Jesus.
At Anne’s feet are two birds in baskets, resembling nests, a symbol of Joachim, her husband. They also may represent the offering made in the Temple when a child was presented. Ann is dressed in green, a symbol of hope. The purple shawl, symbolizing her sorrow at being childless is now falling away.
Behind Anne is a golden vine with golden fruit, perhaps a symbol of the Immaculate Conception of her daughter. Behind Mary is a candle, reminding us of the Light of Christ which will come into the world through her. The flame of the candle resembles a fleur-de-lis, a symbol of Mary and of the Trinity.
As we reflect on the window and the meaning of this feast, let us remember that we, too, are dedicated to God through our Baptism. We can also dedicate ourselves to God every day, seeking to put God first in our lives and to live the Gospel message. May we grow in our love for God as Mary did and seek to share God’s love with everyone we meet.