Presentation and Purification

Post Date: January 27, 2023
Author: Laura Stephens

This coming Thursday, February 2nd, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. This event that is the Fourth Joyful Mystery has tones of joy and sorrow. It also reflects commitment to living out the faith of the family and to acknowledging the joy and challenges of life.

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,
Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. – Luke 2:22-24

There was immense joy for Jewish parents as 40 days after birth was the ceremonial time for the bringing of son to be presented at the Temple. At that time, the first-born son was consecrated to God. Jesus certainly did not need the cleansed from sin as He was already perfectly holy Himself as well as united with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. But in humble obedience from great love for their Jewish faith, Mary and Joseph fulfilled and honored this Jewish law.

This same law required a Jewish mother to be presented for purification after a birth of a child. The seven days after the birth of the child she was considered ritually unclean and then for another 33 days more she could not enter the Temple. This time was doubled if she gave birth to a daughter. There was a required offering of a lamb and a young pigeon or turtle dove for her purification. If the lamb could not be afforded by the family; then they could bring two pigeons or two turtledoves for the sacrifice. At the appointed time, the mother would present herself for ceremonial purification to be prayed over by the priest and then could return to her usual activities. Mary certainly was not unclean for she was sinless; but for the love of her Jewish faith, she carried it out in humility.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon…
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into 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 the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them 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 that will be contradicted
-and you yourself a sword will pierce-
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna…
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. – Luke 2:25-38

In the Temple, Simeon and Anna shared words of great joy for their acknowledgment of Jesus as the Savior. But Simeon’s words also stirred up sorrow, for the road ahead would be one filled with difficulties and sacrifices. The faithful Mary and St. Joseph knew they would trust God with whatever His plans were for their family.

This event in the life of the Holy Family should inspire a steady faithfulness to the Catholic faith we hold dear. It should commit us to the daily living of its precepts and most importantly to the communication of this gift of faith to our children and to those whom God places in our lives. At our children’s Baptism we make promises to raise them Catholic and to keep the light of faith burning bright. This promise is not one to be taken lightly or only when it is easy. It is a continual choice of love and commitment that we make to God for our family’s eternal life.

May we have the faithfulness and trust of Mary and St. Joseph in living with faith and in trusting Our Heavenly Father who is always there guiding us in the challenges of life.

Here are a few ways to celebrate this Feast:

Read the story of the Presentation in Luke 2: 22-38 and reflect on their faithfulness. Discuss ways you could further cultivate your commitment to the faith in your family.
Gather to have a candlelight dinner, learn about Candlemas which relates to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
Share how Christ is the light of our redemption and reflect on how we are called to reveal Him more in our lives.
Make time to take your family to Church (outside of Sunday Mass) to pray together especially before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration. We must daily present ourselves and our families to God so that we remain close to His Will and Heart.
Considering praying Compline, also called Night Prayer from Liturgy of the Hours, as it is a beautiful way to end your day. It also includes the Canticle of Simeon as part of the prayers.
Most Holy Family, pray for us that we might be faithful to our Baptismal promises and remain always close to God.

References:

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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