Saturday, January 29, 2011

On the Fortieth Day: The Presentation of the Lord II

“…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 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.’ (Luke 2:28-35)

Having spent eleven, twelve or thirteen years in the temple, the Blessed Virgin Mary would have been recognized by the temple officials. But only one man steps forward to pay homage to the Messiah upon his arrival; and that man was St. Simeon. Later, of course, the prophetess Anna would enter the scene and rejoice with him upon seeing Jesus Christ.

There is a second explanation as to why St. Simeon and Anna might have known that St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin and the new born Christ were special. Forty days earlier marked the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. It just so happened that right outside the town of Bethlehem was a watch tower called the Migdal Eder. This was a special watch tower that overlooked a pasture of sheep. But these sheep were no ordinary sheep. The sheep at the Migdal Eder were specially groomed for the temple sacrifice throughout the year. This pasture land happened to be alongside a road leading to Jerusalem. The Migdal Eder shepherds were trained to keep these sheep unblemished, that is, with no broken bones or any other kind of infirmity. Unblemished lambs, of course, were required by the Law of Moses.

Interestingly, it is believed that the Angel announced the glad tidings of the Saviors birth to these special Migdal Eder shepherds on Christmas night. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that after having witnessed the angelic apparition and having visited the Holy Family, these shepherds got to talking at the temple when they transported the sheep there. Perhaps, St. Simeon and the prophetess Anna paid close attention to what was rumored to be the arrival of the Messiah; the fulfillment of the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

After taking the baby into his arms he prophesied that Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Jesus would prove to be the Hebrew par excellence; the ideal Jew and the Israelite. As for the Gentiles, his Gospel would cast light upon them. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. “ (Isaiah 9:1) Since the days of Noah, the Gentiles would lose the Faith and fall not only into religious error but also barbaric practices such as human sacrifices. Indeed, this ungodly sacrificial rite to appease false gods would be practiced on every continent.

St. Simeon then turns his attention to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is in the temple that she learns of her vocation of co-redemptrix, that is, as one who would suffer with her Son. As the Mother of the new High Priest and the Lamb to be sacrificed, she would be no passive spectator on Good Friday. Rather, Mary would be called to do what Abraham was prevented from doing, namely, offering her Son as a pleasing sacrifice to God. It began with the Presentation in the Temple and was consummated on Calvary just outside of Jerusalem.

More on the next blog-