What do we know about Mary's life?

In response to the request of many readers, we have produced a general summary of the life of Jesus' mother, Mary. The canonical scriptures (especially the Gospels) are the primary source of information about the Blessed Virgin. Though limited, there are several explicit references to Mary in Scripture. From these comments, some additional facts can be determined. For example, the reign of Herod the Great is mentioned, but its date is not. The time of the reign of Herod the Great has been estimated using non-Biblical sources.

[Birth of Mary] Additionally, certain events from Mary's life are commemorated in the liturgical cycles of many Christian Churches (e.g. Mary's birth). Certain non-biblical accounts [of limited historical value] have elaborated on the spiritual meaning of these events. These accounts often tell us more about the life of the Church than about the life of Mary. However, the integrity of the core facts is assured by the guidance of the 'Spirit of Truth' in the life of the Church.

Finally, there are a number of texts which claim to offer detailed accounts of Mary's life. These include ancient apocryphal texts never accepted into the canon of Sacred Scripture and more recent accounts based on private revelations. Scholars tend to dismiss the historical value of all these accounts. The fact that these accounts tend to contradict each other on certain points of detail proves that not all the accounts are completely accurate. Further, the Church teaches that none of these non-canonical accounts should be believed with the certitude of divine faith. We will include the names of some of the better-known accounts.

Chronological Table of Events in Mary's Life

23/20 BC Birth of Mary to Ann and Joachim
20/17 BC Presentation of Mary in the Temple
11/8 BC Betrothal to Joseph (Mt 1:16; Lk 1:27)
7 BC Annunciation of Christ's Birth to Mary (Lk 1:26-38)
Mary's Visitation to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56)
Mary found with Child (Mt 1:18-25)
7/6 BC Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Lk 2:1-19)
Circumcision of Jesus at eight days of age (Lk 2:21)
Purification of Mary after forty days (Lk 2:22-24)
Prophecy of Simeon concerning Jesus and Mary (Lk 2:25-35)
Prophetess Anna speaks of Jesus (Lk 2:36-38)
Return to Nazareth (Lk 2:39)
6/4 BC Adoration of the Magi (Mt 2:1-11)
Flight into Egypt to save Jesus from Herod (Mt 2:13-14)
4-? BC Return to Nazareth after Herod's death (Mt 2:19-23)
6 AD Finding of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem (Lk 2:41-50)
6-? AD Life of Mary and Joseph with Jesus at Nazareth (Lk 2:51)
27/28-30 AD Mary at the Marriage Feast of Cana (Jn 2:1-11)
Mary with Jesus during His Public Life (Mt 12:46-50; Mk 3:31-35; Lk 8:19-21; Jn 2:12-13)
Jesus' indirect praise of Mary for her faith (Lk 11:27-28)
30 AD Mary at the Cross (Jn 19:25-27)
Mary with the Apostles in the Cenacle after Jesus' Ascension (Acts 1:14)
? Mary is assumed to heaven to rejoin her Son.

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