|"The Presentation of the Virgin" 1504-08, by Vittore Carpaccio.|
The Protoevangelium of James is one of several non-canonical documents originating in the early centuries of the Church. This "gospel," which is incorrectly attributed to James, the foster-brother of our Lord, actually dates from the mid-3rd century. It has value for us because it gathers together many traditions, especially concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, which were known and accepted by members of the early Church, but which are not found in the canonical Scriptures.
From the Protoevangelium of James, n.7:
"And the child was two years old, and Joachim said: Let us take her up to the temple of the Lord, that we may pay the vow that we have vowed, lest perchance the Lord send to us, and our offering be not received. And Anna said: Let us wait for the third year, in order that the child may not seek for father or mother. And Joachim said: So let us wait. And the child was three years old, and Joachim said: Invite the daughters of the Hebrews that are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them stand with the lamps burning, that the child may not turn back, and her heart be captivated from the temple of the Lord. And they did so until they went up into the temple of the Lord. And the priest received her, and kissed her, and blessed her, saying: The Lord has magnified thy name in all generations. In thee, on the last of the days, the Lord will manifest His redemption to the sons of lsrael. And he set her down upon the third step of the altar, and the Lord God sent grace upon her; and she danced with her feet, and all the house of Israel loved her."