Orthodox and Greek Catholics Celebrate Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Eastern Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 4 (November 21 according to the old style), one of the 12 greatest church feasts. The Gospel does not mention the event of the presentation in the Temple. This feast, as well as Christmas and Assumption of the Mother of God, is based on the Church tradition and apocrypha, primarily, the Proto-Gospel of James and pseudo Gospel of Matthew "About the birth of the Most Holy Virgin."
These works say that the parents of the Virgin Mary, St. Joachim and Anna were childless and vowed to send their child to serve God in the Temple of Jerusalem if it is born. The Lord heard their prayer and gave them a daughter. When she was three, the parents brought her to the Temple and handed her over to High Priest Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist. The Most Holy Mother of God stayed there for many years until she was betrothed to St. Joseph.
The feast was first mentioned in the 5th century; however, it became wide spread in the Near East only several hundred years later. We know from the sermons of Patriarch German (715–730) of Constantinople and Patriarch Tarasius (784–806) of Constaninople that the feast of Presentation was established in the 8th century. The Sinai Gospel of the 8th century, which was presented to the Sinai Monastery by Emperor Theodosius III (715–717), mentions this feast among twelve other ones. The feast was included in the Greek Church calendars of the 9th century. From that time, it became widespread.
The Sinai Canons of the 9th–10th centuries mentions the feast of the Presentation as the feast "Of the Most Holy Mother of God who was brought to the Temple at the age of three." The Typicon of the Great Church of Constantinople (9th–10th centuries) mentions the date of November 21 as "Assembly of the Holy Mother of God, who was brought and handed over to the Temple at the age of three." The service for this feast was compiled by Gregory of Nicomedia (9th century) and Basil Pagariot.
The feast was introduced in the West only in the end of the 14th century and was spread all over Europe in the middle of the 15th century. The Western Church celebrates it on November 21.
As Yulian Katrii notes in his book "Know Your Rite," in the Middle Ages, the feast was a favorite theme in iconography.