As a three-year old child, Mary is brought by her parents, Joachim and Anna, to the Temple in Jerusalem, where she “is presented today to the house of the Lord.” The High Priest leads her into the Holy of Holies, an unusual act, for only the High Priest himself entered there once a year.
The Entrance (Presentation) of the Theotokos into the Temple Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, had always worshipped God and were very faithful to Him. After Mary was about three years old, they went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and offer a sacrifice (a gift) to God for blessing them with their special little girl.
The Temple was a very large building, divided into several areas. There was a golden altar, with many vessels, and furniture that was covered with gold. There were places where the priests offered sacrifices of animals, and special areas where incense and candles were burned. There were lamp-stands of pure gold, cups, large bowls or basins where the priests could wash their hands, a small altar-stand for burning sweet-smelling incense, and gold and silver stored in the treasury. This glorious Temple stood on a large stone hill and could be seen from everywhere around.
When they entered the Temple, Joachim and Anna led their little girl Mary towards the place called the “Holy of Holies” (like the Sanctuary, the place of the Altar in our Church). It was the place in the Temple where only the priests were allowed to go, where they offered prayers and spoke to God. Outside the sanctuary, there were rooms where the priests lived and other places for people who helped to take care of the Temple and its visitors.
Joachim and Anna led their daughter towards the Sanctuary, to present her to the Lord, but something very unusual happened. As they neared the steps, the High Priest came out. He led Mary toward the holy place in the Temple, where only he could go, just once each year. Then, even more surprising, the High Priest took Mary’s hand and led her into the Sanctuary, the most Holy of Holies! Joachim and Anna were not sure what had happened, but they believed God had blessed their child in a special way.
Many people came from long distances to worship and offer gifts and sacrifices in the Temple, like Joachim and Anna. They often stayed in the buildings around the Temple during the great holidays, where they were cared for by the women who helped provide them with food and shelter. Mary’s parents were growing old, and were older than most parents with a young child. They worried about what would happen to Mary when they died. Who would take care of her? After seeing the surprising thing that happened to Mary in the Temple, they spoke with the women who helped there. They made arrangements for Mary to live near the Temple with them and help them with the work of caring for the Temple. She would be able to live there until she was old enough to marry, or to decide to remain there as a virgin with the other women.