Presentation of Theotokos



  1. Students should be able to describe the icon and tell the story.
  2. Students should know the date of the feast, November 21.


Possible Lesson Plan:

  1. Open with prayer.


  1. The icon: Use it to see how much the students already know? Who are the characters? (Mary, Joachim, Anna, and the high priest Zachariah).


  1. Review the story:


Several of the early Christian writings of Syria tell us that Mary, the Theotokos was brought to the Temple at age three to be educated, in fulfillment of a vow made by her parents, Joachim and Anna. Remember the story of the Nativity of the Theotokos – how Joachim and Anna had prayed for the birth of their daughter?  The feast was instituted in the late 4th century.

            Mary and her parents approach the Temple in joy, accompanied by Mary’s small friends.  Zachariah and the Temple virgins meet her in the Temple courtyard.  The Temple is divided into three sections: the outer porch or courtyard, the Holy or nave where only Jews can come to pray and worship, and the Holy of Holies, behind a curtain, where only the high priest can enter, and he only once a year on the Day of Atonement.  But, little Mary climbs directly up the steps and into the Holy of Holies, astounding all the people and even the angels.

            Mary stayed at the Temple and grew up there, studying and worshipping.  She left the Temple at about the age of 15, when she returned to Nazareth and was betrothed to Joseph.


Discussion questions: Where in the Bible is this account found? (Nowhere, but in ancient Church tradition and the Apocrypha.) Why do we believe that which is not in the Bible? (It is part of the living Tradition of the Church’s memory.) Why do Mary’s parents bring her to the Temple?  If they love her so much, why give her up? (Similar situation: Hannah and Samuel in I Samuel 1:9-28)


  1. Have students read aloud in turn the readings for the feast:

Gospel: Luke 10:38-11:28

Epistle: Hebrews 9:1-7

Old Testament: Exodus 40:1-5, 9-11, 16, 34-35; I Kings 8:1-11; Ezekiel 43:27-44:4


  1. Songs of the Feast:

Troparion: Today the Virgin is the foreshadowing of the pleasure of God, and the beginning of the preaching of the salvation of mankind.  Thou hast appeared in the Temple of God openly and hast gone before, preaching Christ to all.  Let us shout with one thrilling voice, saying, Rejoice, O thou who art the fulfillment of the Creator’s dispensation.

Kontakion: The all-pure temple of the Savior, the most precious bridal-chamber and Virgin, the treasure-house of the glory of God, today entered the Temple of the Lord, bringing with her the grace which is in the divine Spirit: whom also the angels of God do celebrate in song; for she is the heavenly tabernacle.


  1. Discussion questions:

 What was the importance of the Ark of the Covenant to the Jewish people? The Temple? Who built the first Temple? (Solomon)Why didn’t God allow David to build it? Who rebuilt the temple after the captivity? (Zerubabel) Who built the Temple that Mary entered? (Herod, who built a Temple to show the Jews how pious he was and to show the Romans the importance of his reign) When was the Temple destroyed and by whom? (the Romans in 70 AD, fulfilling the prophecies of Christ in Luke 19:43-44)

What does Mary entering the Holy of Holies symbolize? (one possibility – that she who entered the Temple was preparing to become the house of the Lord)  What is now the true Temple? (the Church, the Body of Christ – I Cor. 6:19) The Ark of the Covenant was lost at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, who is now the Ark? (Mary, as she enters the Holy of Holies)  The ark was surrounded by carvings of what? (cherubim) Mary is hymned each week in the Megalynarion as what? (more honorable than the cherubim…)  So Mary is the newly recovered Living Ark, fulfilling the Old Testament and prefiguring the New Covenant.


  1. Make a felt banner: Take a background piece of felt, about 24x36 inches. Fold down 1 inch on the top and staple around a dowel or coat hanger. This year we have pre-cut banners for your convenience. Have the students design a banner around the feast, featuring its icon, its symbolism, whatever they feel is important.  They can cut the letters and shapes out of the small pieces of felt in the box; let me know if you use the last of a color. We also have precut letters with adhesive backs. Glue them on the background and hang in the Social Hall for all to enjoy!  Alternately, make small icons for each student -- see Overview!


8. Close with prayer.