The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem

Feb 22, 2023

After the circumcision, the Law of Moses established that the firstborn son was to be presented to the Lord and then ransomed; in addition, the mother had to purify herself of the legal impurity contracted (cf. Ex 13:2; 12-13. Lev 12:2-8). This offering of every first-born recalled the miraculous deliverance of the people of Israel from their captivity in Egypt. All the first-borns were presented to Yahweh, and then restored to the people. Our Lady prepared her heart, as only she could, to present her Son to God the Father and offer herself with Him. In doing so, she renewed her ” May it be done to me,” and once again placed her own life in God’s hands. Jesus was presented to His Father in Mary’s hands. Such an oblation was never made in that Temple and would never be offered again. The next offering would be made by Jesus himself, outside the city, on Calvary.

Simeon’s Song of Praise, 1631. Rembrandt van Rijn. Mauritshuis

Mary and Joseph arrived at the Temple ready to faithfully fulfill what was established in the Law. The Law did not bind Mary, who is most pure and conceived her Son miraculously. But throughout her life, Our Lady never sought reasons that would exempt her from the common norms of her time. As on many other occasions, the Mother of God behaved like any other Jewish woman of those days. She wanted to be an example of obedience and humility: a humility that led her to not be an exception, because of the graces with which God had adorned her, and to present herself that day, accompanied by Joseph, as just another woman. In this way she teaches us to pass unnoticed among our companions, even though our hearts burn with love for God, without seeking exceptions because we are Christians: we are ordinary citizens, with the same rights and duties as others.

They presented, as a symbolic ransom, the offering of the poor: a pair of turtledoves (cf. Lk 2:24). And they were met there by the elderly Simeon, a righteous man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel. The Holy Spirit revealed to him what was hidden from others. Simeon took the child in his arms and blessed God, saying: Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.

The liturgy of this feast presents the life of the Christian as an offering to the Lord, expressed in the procession of lighted candles that are slowly consumed, bit by bit, while providing light. The procession with the lighted candles signifies the light of Christ announced by Simeon in the Temple, Light to enlighten the nations, which spreads through every Christian, who is to be light wherever he or she is in the midst of the world.

Simeon blessed the parents, and said to Mary his mother: Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign of contradiction (and you yourself a sword shall pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Lk 2:34-35). These words addressed to the Virgin announce that she would be intimately united to the redemptive work of her Son. The sword of which Simeon speaks expresses Mary’s participation in the sufferings of her Son; it is an unspeakable pain that pierces her soul.

By father José Benito Cabaniña


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