The Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple
Today marks the commemoration of the Purification of Mary and the presentation of our Lord at the Temple. Mary and Joseph were faithful and remained faithful to the requirements set forth by God in the Law of Moses. Thirty days after childbirth, Mary presented herself to the priests at the Temple to receive purification according to the Law. Joseph, the quiet, faithful father was there as head of the household and to fulfill the obligations of the Law for his family.
There was no fanfare, just a humble walk with God into the Temple. Mary and Joseph drew no attention to themselves. Their sacrifice was modest, the sacrifice of those who could not afford a lamb. In fact, the story soon turned to the infant Savior, the Lamb of God, who, according to the Law of Moses, was presented at the Temple to be consecrated to God and to be redeemed (see Exodus 34).
Simeon, a righteous man as Luke tells us, had been told that he would not depart this earth, until he had seen our Lord’s Christ. The firstborn consecrated to God was now home in the Temple, and Simeon proclaimed the truth of who Christ is, in one of the best known songs of the church, the Nunc Dimittis (Now Dismiss). What a peace and joy that comes from the revelation of God’s salvation in Christ. And to confirm that this treasure is for all humanity, God revealed this salvation to Anna, a woman. She too spoke of the redemption of Israel to all who would listen. Luke tells the story better than I:
And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.