I am not Orthodox, so please forgive my confusion about this. I am looking at an icon where Mary’s parents are presenting her to the high priest to be consecrated for a life within the temple. The religious tradition I am familiar with (Latin rite RC) does not have teachings about this, and I also do not find any Scriptural reference. Where has this idea come from? I am not contesting it, just curious.
The feast finds its origin in the East from at least the sixth century. In the West, it is said that Pope Gregory XI in 1372AD had heard of the feast being celebrated in Greece and introduced it at Avignon, while its universal observance throughout the West was only introduced in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V. The event commemorated on this day is not found in Scripture but, rather, in two ancient writings, generally regarded as authentic, that relate how Mary, as a small child, was presented by her parents, Joachim and Anna, in the temple of Jerusalem. There she was to have been raised among the virgins consecrated to God’s service until such time as they were to be betrothed in marriage.
Church Tradition holds that Mary was solemnly welcomed into the temple community, headed by the priest Zacharias, father of John the Baptist. Tradition holds that she was led to the holy place and nourished by the angels—this is often depicted in the festal icon, generally in the top right-hand corner—signifying that, by virtue of the fact that she would bear the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ in her womb, she becomes the living sanctuary and temple of God incarnate. This theme—Mary enters the Temple to become herself the living temple of God, thus inaugurating the New Testament in which are fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies—is clear in the hymns of the liturgical services for the feast. The feast also stresses that, with her entrance into the temple to become the living tabernacle of God incarnate, the physical temple in Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God draws to an end and the “preview of the good will of God” is revealed, as we sing in the troparion for the day: “Today is the preview of the good will of God, of the preaching of the salvation of mankind. The Virgin appears in the temple of God, in anticipation proclaiming Christ to all. Let us rejoice and sing to her: Rejoice, O divine fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.”
Finally, the feast serves to remind us that we too are called to be living tabernacles and abodes of the Lord: “We are the temple of the living God, as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (see 2 Cor 6:11; Isa 52:11).