We know that Anna and Joachim were very old when Mary was born. They were overjoyed to have a child, but an angel had visited them to tell them that this child had a special destiny. They would not have her in their household for very long.
It must have been difficult for these two old people to give up the child they had waited so long to have. She would not be there to comfort them in their last years, or to brighten their home with her play and laughter. But they knew that she needed to be prepared if she was to be ready to take part in God’s plan. They promised God they would bring her to His Temple, where holy people would teach her to pray and to live in a way that was pleasing to Him.
These two loving parents thought long and hard about the best way to bring Mary to the Temple. Joachim wanted to take her when she was two years old, but Anna felt they should wait a bit longer so that she would not miss them so much , and so that they would have time to be with her. So when Mary was three, her parents walked with her to the Temple, accompanied by friends and relatives who carried candles and sang songs to keep Mary from being apprehensive.
Even though she was so very young, Mary walked up the Temple steps by herself. At the top the priest Zachariah, in his colorful robes, met her. She wasn’t afraid, and she didn’t cry for her parents to take her home.
Something surprising happened next. Zachariah took Mary into the “Holy of Holies”, a part of the Temple so sacred that only the priest entered—and he only once a year. We can imagine the shock of the people who had come with Mary, watching the little girl being accompanied into that holy place.
Mary stayed in the Temple for twelve years. The holy people there taught her, and prepared her to serve God. Then, as she grew into young womanhood, she was engaged to Joseph. Later, Joseph would care for her and for the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ, to whom she would give birth.