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Commemorating The Feast of
The Presentation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Artist Unknown

Many of the celebrations in honor of Mary are based in historical fact. The Sacred Scriptures tell of her acceptance of God's invitation to be the mother of the Savior 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 Saint Sergius ( A.D. 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 His Universal Church.

Pope Paul VI in the 1974 encyclical Marialis Cultus, 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."

Note: Fr. Matthew Mauriello is the Administrator of Our Lady of Montserrat Church in Stamford, CT.

4 posted on 05/29/2011 3:48:38 PM PDT by Robert Drobot (Quaeras de dubiis, legem ben,e discere si vis)
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Commemorating The Feast of
Blessed Apostle Saint Andrew †

Saint Andrew by François Duquesnoy ( Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome )

Saint Andrew, called Protocletos, or the First-called in the Orthodox tradition, was the younger brother of Blessed Apostle Saint Peter. He was renowned for bringing Christianity to Romania, Ukraine, and Russia, and is said to have been crucified on a Saltire cross in Patras, Greece. Andrew is esteemed as an example of humility for the fact that he refused to be crucified on the same type of cross as Christ because he was not worthy.

Many countries venerate Andrew as their patron saint including Scotland, Russia, and Romania. It is also held that Andrew founded the See of Byzantium in A.D. 38, where he installed Stachys as bishop. This See would later develop into the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Andrew is its patron saint. In both the Eastern and Western churches, the feast of Saint Andrew is observed on November 30 and it is the national day of Scotland.

According to Christian sources, Andrew was born at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee ( Blessed Apostle Saint John 1:44 ). Later, he lived at Capernaum ( Blessed Apostle Saint Mark 1:29 ) where he was likely exposed to Greek influences. Andrew and his elder brother Peter were fishermen by trade[3] and they were the first apostles to be appointed by Jesus. Consequently, Andrew is often called Protocletos, or the "first-called"; in the Eastern Orthodox tradition and he is described as being one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus ( Blessed Apostle Saint Mark 13:3; Blessed Apostle Saint John 6:8; 12:22 ).

After the crucifixion and Pentecost, Andrew allegedly preached in Asia Minor and in Scythia, along the Black Sea as far as the Volga and Kyiv. Due to his travels in these lands, he subsequently became known as the patron saint of Romania and Russia. Additionally, it is held that Andrew founded the See of Byzantium in 38 C.E., which would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is still its patron saint.

It is said that Andrew was martyred by crucifixion at Patras in Greece ( A.D. 60-70 ), on a cross of the form called Crux decussata ( X-shaped cross ) and commonly known as "St. Andrew's cross," at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross on which Christ was crucified.

According to tradition his relics were removed from Patras to Constantinople, and thence to Saint Andrews. Local legends say that the relics were sold to the Romans by the local priests in exchange for the Romans constructing a water reservoir for the city. The head of the Saint Andrew, considered as one of the treasures of Saint Peter's Basilica, was given by the Byzantine despot Thomas Palaeologus to Pope Pius II in 1461. In recent years, the relics were kept in the Vatican City, but were sent back to Patras by decision of the Pope Paul VI in 1964. The relics, which consist of the small finger and part of the top of the cranium of Saint Andrew, have since that time been kept in the Church of St. Andrew at Patras in a special tomb, and are reverenced in a special ceremony every November 30.

Saint Jerome ( A.D. 342 –419 ) wrote that the relics of Andrew were taken from Patras to Constantinople by order of the Roman emperor Constantius II in A.D. 357. In A.D. 1208, the relics were taken to Amalfi, Italy, by Pietro, cardinal of Capua, a native of Amalfi. In the fifteenth century, the skull of Andrew was brought to Rome, where it became enshrined in one of the four central piers of Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. In September 1964, as a gesture of good will toward the Greek Orthodox Church, Pope Paul VI returned a finger and part of the head to the church in Patras. The Amalfi cathedral, dedicated to Saint Andrew ( as is the town itself ), contains a tomb in its crypt that it maintains still contains the rest of the relics of the apostle.

The apocryphal “Acts of Andrew,” as well as a “Gospel of St. Andrew,” appear among rejected books in the Decretum Gelasianum connected with the name of Pope Gelasius I. The Acts of Andrew was edited and published by Constantin von Tischendorf in the Acta Apostolorum apocrypha ( Leipzig, A.D. 1821 ), putting it for the first time into the hands of a critical professional readership.

Andrew was selected by Jesus to be an apostle. In Christianity, an apostle is commissioned by God to spread the "Good News" of the Christian message to the world. Normally, the term applies to one of the Twelve Apostles... listed in the New Testament, who were chosen by Jesus to heal the sick, drive out demons, raise the dead ( Blessed Apostle Saint Mark 6:7-13, Blessed Apostle Saint Matthew 10:5-42, and Blessed Apostle Saint Luke 9:1-6 ), and to spread his message. The status of the apostles in the early church was penultimate to Jesus himself, for Jesus had given them power to teach in his name.According to Eastern Orthodoxy, Blessed Apostle Saint Andrew founded the See of Byzantium in A.D. 38, which would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Early Christian history in the Ukraine holds that Blessed Apostle Saint Andrew preached on the southern borders of Ukraine, along the Black Sea. Legend has it that he traveled up the Dnieper River and reached the future location of Kiev, where he erected a cross on the site where the Saint Andrew's Church of Kiev currently stands, and where he prophesied the foundation of a great Christian city.

Romanians believe that Saint Andrew was the first to preach Christianity in Scythia Minor, modern Dobrogea, to the native people of the Dacians (ancestors of the Romanians). This is the official position of the Romanian Orthodox Church.

About the middle of the tenth century, Andrew became the patron saint of Scotland. Several legends state that the relics of Andrew were brought under supernatural guidance from Constantinople to the place where the modern town of Saint Andrews stands. Andrew's connection with Scotland may have been reinforced following the Synod of Whitby, when the Celtic Church felt that Columba had been "outranked" by Peter and that Peter's older brother would make a higher ranking patron. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath cites Scotland's conversion to Christianity by Saint Andrew, "the first to be an Apostle."

Numerous parish churches in the Church of Scotland and congregations of other Christian churches in Scotland are named after Saint Andrew. Today, Saint Andrew continues to be the patron saint of Scotland, Russia, Romania, Amalfi, and Luqa (Malta). Many national flags depict the cross on which he was crucified and thus bear a testament to him. For example, the flag of Scotland (and subsequently the Union Jack and the flag of Nova Scotia) feature a saltire in commemoration of the shape of Saint Andrew's cross. The saltire is also the flag of Tenerife and the naval jack of Russia. The feast of Andrew is observed on November 30 in both the Eastern and Western churches, and is the national day of Scotland. In the traditional liturgical books of the Catholic church, the feast of St. Andrew is the first feast day in the Proper of Saints.


5 posted on 05/29/2011 3:52:12 PM PDT by Robert Drobot (Quaeras de dubiis, legem ben,e discere si vis)
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