Reading up about this tradition, I learned that,
‘According to Jewish law, the firstborn male child belonged to God, and the parents had to "buy him back" on the 40th day after his birth, by offering a sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24) in the temple (thus the "presentation" of the child). On that same day, the mother would be ritually purified (thus the "purification").Meditating on these customs of long ago, I thought about their applicability to my relationship with God today.
It’s been 40 days since Our Lord came to us on that glorious Christmas Day. We awaited Him with such joy and anticipation. Then He quietly stole into our world in the most unexpected and out-of-the-way place He could find, yet still fulfilling all that His prophets had foretold about Him. He came as a vulnerable infant, who could have been refused by His mother, denied by His foster father and slaughtered by His ruling monarch. Instead, His birth was sung by a whole Host of Heavenly Angels, witnessed by God’s chosen few and honored by a celestial event. But really that was 2000 years ago, even if we do relive the event every year when we celebrate December 25th or every time we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
The Mystery of Christmas is all about the celebration of His Coming into this world. But what is the Mystery of the Presentation?
Is it Mary’s purification and mine? Do I join her in praying the beautiful words from the Magnificat, “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior because he has regarded the humility of his handmaid.” Unlike Mary, I only pray the next words as they apply to her. And yes, dear Mother of Our Lord and mine, all generations do call you blessed because He that is mighty, has done great things to you.
Yes, that is part of the Mystery of the Presentation. But there is more. There is also Our Lord’s Presentation. There are the beautiful meetings between the Holy Family and the two people, Anna and Simeon, in the Temple, their joy in beholding Jesus and our joy that at least they understand His significance even if all the rest are ignorant.
Jesus has come to earth, a gift to us from the Father and at the Temple He is offered back to the Father in accordance with Jewish Law, in recognition of the fact that He belongs to God. So Mary and Joseph offer two simple turtledoves in payment for you dearest Jesus. I like to think that they themselves are the little turtledoves and Our Heavenly Father was very pleased with their humble offering. He knew His dearly beloved son would be safe with such parents, young as they were, for they had such pure hearts.
And me? Am I only a spectator of all this? Do the mysteries of the Rosary and Our Faith merely offer us lifeless cold images to look at and speculate about? Or do they invite us into the story as a participant in the wonder and beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church, the Father’s bond with the Son and depth of love in the Holy Trinity?
I believe we are always invited into the mysteries in a personal way.
I have now come to the Temple as well. I come to present all I have. It isn’t much. It is only ... me. If I should be transformed into something which could fly—and Mary and Joseph are turtle doves—I think I would be a flea or a gnat. But whatever I am, here I am Lord. Please purify me, redeem me and accept this, my presentation, on Your Feast Day. Thank you Jesus for the gift of your life and the glimpse into this scene. Please allow me to go deeper into the Gospel mysteries each time I pray.