Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple
In this Gospel account from St Luke, we have a very beautiful account of Jesus being presented to the Lord in the temple as the Law required. This solemnity has been called The Purification of Mary and Candlemas as well. It occurs 40 days after Christmas and is the last echo of the Christmas season. This is why I leave the crib up till this feast. It is important to know a little bit of history. In Jewish law it was stated that every first born male child was the property of God, not the parents. The parents had to literally buy back their child from God. To do this, they went to the temple when the child was 40 days old and offered a sacrifice to God. The mother would also be purified that day according to the purification laws. The price they pay to buy back the child was either a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.
In this Gospel we also meet two great characters, Simeon and Anna. When Jesus is brought into the temple Simeon is there, not because he worked there or was a priest but because the Holy Spirit directed him there. He has been told by God that he would not die before he saw the Messiah. When he took Jesus into his arms he said, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”
Then Anna, a prophetess, widow of a great age who never left the temple, came past when Simeon was holding Jesus. She began to praise God and spoke about him to all who were in the temple. So, from the very beginning, Jesus was proclaimed as the Saviour of the world. When Simeon said to Mary that a sword would pierce her heart this was recognised as a prediction of his death. He died for us to take away our sin and give us the promise to live with him forever in Heaven. To secure this eternal life we must make a real effort to live a life that is consistent with all that Jesus taught us, to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves.
(Image by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.)