in Christian Tradition
in the Apocryphal Writings
Her Early Life: 2nd Century
Christian stories about Christ, Mary and the apostles originating in
Syria, Palestine and Egypt from the mid-2nd century, greatly influenced
the way ordinary Christians imagined Mary's life. These stories, attempting
to supply details omitted in the Gospels, went beyond and sometimes
contrary to the indications of the Scriptures. They have inspired art,
liturgy and Christian devotion to Mary over the centuries.
Gospel of James," one of these stories written about 150 A.D., portrays
the childhood of Mary in this way:
Mary was one year old, Joachim made a great feast and invited the
priests and scribes, and the whole people of Israel assembled.
Joachim brought the child to the priests, and they blessed her saying,
'O God of our fathers, bless this child and give her a name renowned
for ever among all generations.'
all the people said: 'So be it, so be it. Amen . . . '
the child became three years old, and Joachim said: 'Call the virgin
daughters of the Hebrews and let them accompany the child to the temple
of the Lord with lamps burning in their hands.'
they went up to the temple of the Lord.
the priests received her and kissed her and blessed her, saying: 'The
Lord has magnified your name among all generations; in you the Lord
will show redemption to the children of Israel.'
he sat her on the third step of the altar. And the Lord gave her grace
and she danced with her feet and all the house of the Lord loved her.
her parents returned home marveling and praising the Lord because
their child did not turn back.
Mary was in the temple of the Lord to be nurtured like a dove; and
she received food from the hand of an angel."
story proceeds to give details of Mary's marriage to Joseph, who is
portrayed as an old widower with his own children. It relates new wonders
and signs that accompanied the birth of Jesus in a cave. The account,
by presenting Mary as a sheltered virgin absorbed in the service of
God in the temple, sought to defend the Christian doctrine of the virginal
conception. Unfortunately, it pictures her removed from the ordinary,
uneventful village life that Scripture suggests was hers.
the 5th century, a church honoring Mary's birthplace and home, suggested
by this apocryphal story, was built close by the Temple site in Jerusalem.
The Church of St. Ann, the mother of Mary, stands on that place today.
death and assumption into Heaven