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IHS Sunday within the Octave of Christmas—29 December AD 2019 Ave Maria! #IamCristeros

“Behold, this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted: and thy own soul a sword shall pierce….”[1]

The Mass this morning anticipates the liturgical season. The Gospel speaks of the Presentation in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. This event did not actually take place until forty days after the birth of Christ.

This year, February 2nd. the feast of the Presentation will fall on a Sunday, so all of you will be able to attend. It is a lovely Mass that includes the blessing of candles for the coming year—quite colorful because of the procession with burning candles

Perhaps a word or two is in order about the nature of the “Presentation.” According to the law of Moses, every first born belonged to the Lord. If it was an animal, it was to be offered in sacrifice at the Temple. If it was a human child, it obviously couldn't be sacrificed, but had, instead, to be “redeemed,: or “bought back” from the Lord. [2] The redemption price is given in the book of Numbers at five silver shekels.[3] (The shekel is roughly the weight of the Morgan silver dollar.)[4]

Another aspect of this ceremony was the “Purification” of the mother, which was to take place at the same time. The process of childbirth is often accompanied by the shedding of blood. In the mind of the Jew, and according to the Mosaic law, this shedding of blood made the mother ritually “unclean.” Blood was, to the Jew, a symbol of life and death and defilement. The mother was not allowed to take part in the religious services of the Jews until she underwent the ritual of purification. The child's parents were to bring the child, and offer a sacrificial animal in his place; or a pair of doves if they were poor people, as were Mary and Joseph.[5]

Now, of course, it goes without saying that the Temple had no claim on our Lord—and that our Blessed Lady was in no way impure, or under any stain of sin. In short, there was no compelling necessity for either to observe the Mosaic Law in this matter. But, what we do see here is an example of cheerful obedience to the laws of the Church. If we are tempted to grumble about Friday abstinence, or Lenten fasting, or Sunday Mass attendance—or whatever—we might keep their example in mind. Mary and Joseph were content to follow all of the prescriptions of the Law, even though they were not strictly obliged to do so.

Enthusiasm vs. Tepidity

There is another thing that we can learn from this Gospel; another good behavior which we can, and should, imitate. That is the zeal displayed by the other two people in today's Gospel: Simeon and Anna.

The prophet Simeon had grown to advanced old age, awaiting the birth of the Savior. He had been promised by God that he would see the Christ before his death. His zeal and his enthusiasm were what kept him going. Quite likely he spent all of his days in the Temple waiting for the unknown day on which the Christ would be presented. To see the Lord was enough; was all he asked for. And, on seeing Him, Simeon was gratified, and perfectly prepared for his death. “Now Lord, Thou mayest dismiss Thy servant... for my eyes have seen Thy salvation... a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”[6]

Anna was a prophetess—again, one who had reached relative old age. For perhaps, 60 years or more, the Gospel says, she had served the Temple of the Lord in fasting and prayer throughout the day and night. Instead of living in the world and enjoying the pleasures of its society, she consecrated herself to God.

The two of these people are models of the life which all Christians are called to lead. They give us their example of making constant progress in the spiritual life; of turning their back on the excesses of the world by fasting and self denial, by a regular spiritual routine, by attention to prayer, by a generous spending of themselves doing the things of God—simply stated, by enthusiasm for holy things. So that in the end we can say with holy Simeon:

Now Lord, Thou mayest dismiss Thy servant... In peace, according to Thy word… for my eyes have seen Thy salvation... a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people….”


[1] Gospel: Luke ii::33-40

[2] Exodus xiii:13

[3] Numbers xviii:14-16


[5] Leviticus xii: 1-8

[6] Luke ii: 29-32

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