Sunday, January 30, 2011

Conclusion: On the Fortieth Day: The Presentation of the Lord

…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.” Luke 2:28-35


St. Paul once said that a woman is saved through motherhood. (I Tim. 2:15) The same can be said for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She worked out her salvation through her own motherhood. But even more than that, through her spotless maternity, she also helped to work out the salvation of the human race. By many popes she has been called the Ark of the Covenant. For nine months, she not only carried the Word of God but she also mystically carried the people of God within the tabernacle of her womb. In the book of Revelation (chapter 12), God's people would be referred to as "her offspring." And it is against Mary's offspring that the dragon would wage war.

It is fitting, therefore, that St. Simeon prophesied that the Son of Mary would be a Sign that was to be contradicted. Indeed, the Cross throughout the centuries would not only serve as an emblem of redemption for souls but it would also portend to be a sign that contradicts evil. As our Lord would tell his Apostles at the Last Supper: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:18, 20)

In light of this, the vocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was to prepare her Son for this Contradiction on Calvary. Like the Migdal Eder shepherds (see On the Fortieth Day II for explanation), she was commissioned with the special task of preparing the Immaculate Lamb of God for the sacrifice. Pope St. Pius X said “it was not only the prerogative of the Most Holy Mother to have furnished the material of His flesh to the Only Son of God, Who was to be born with human members of which material should be prepared the Victim for the salvation of men; but hers was also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice.” (Pius X, On the Immaculate Conception) Far from wincing from the hour of her Son's sacrifice, the Mother of God hastened the hour by asking Jesus to perform his first public miracle at the Wedding of Cana.

But first, through St. Simeon, as with St. Paul (cf. Acts 9:16), the Lord revealed to Mary the suffering she would have to endure. And although the sufferings of Christ were sufficient to save, it was preordained that Mary’s tears would be mingled with the blood of Christ for the salvation of the human race. Accordingly, St. Simeon said to her that “you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The piercing of a mother’s heart will help reveal the thoughts of many hearts. Interestingly, “The thoughts of many hearts being revealed” is allusion to Judgment Day. St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, wrote that at the appointed time Jesus Christ will “bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” Mary’s suffering, therefore, was no incidental matter. Rather, the piercing of her Immaculate Heart was a precondition for the Day of Judgment. She would be pierced "so that" the thoughts of many would be revealed. Indeed, through her, as one united to her Son, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished.

It must be born in mind that Mary was not only a Lady of Sorrow; it is equally true to say that in her sorrow and from her sorrow there was an occasion of great joy. In the same encyclical, St. Pius X said that, “…beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her Only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind and so entirely participating in His Passion, that if it had been possible she would have gladly borne all torments that her Son bore.” It is a truth worth contemplating that Mary's love for her spiritual children is equally generous.

Mary’s participation in the Passion of the Christ began with a ritual on the fortieth day. It was there in the Temple that she offered up to the Father the Lamb of God. And it was there in the Temple that she accepted all that it meant for her. Through his faith in God, Abraham became the father of the Jewish people. But through her faith and sacrificial love, Mary became the new Eve and the Mother of all Christians. Who can doubt, therefore, that what she did for her son Jesus she will also do for us? And what she will do is make us holy through our own trials and contradictions; and more importantly, she will prepare us for the hour of our death so that our transition into eternal life may be without contradiction. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen!"