The Presentation at the Temple

This whole scene is surely a joyful mystery, an event full of joy, and contemplation. I have been working with a theological poetry group, and my contribution was actually on Simeon the Holy, or Simeon the Just as the Tradition calls him. But I really wanted to accent the whole scene. This is Luke 2: 22-38. Let’s do some refection.

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 firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

What struck me first was the obedient character of Joseph and Mary, this was as it were, just a startling reminder, a seeing something familiar again for the very first time. Mary went to be purified, even Holy Mary, the very Mother of Our Lord, submitted to the law, and reminds us to do so as well with her character in this scene.

This next part is where I really had to re-read, carefully, and attentively.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.

This man, is righteous, he is devout, he is someone who is acquainted with the Spirit, as the prophets and mighty men of the Old Testament were accustomed to. And he embodies to us, a rather foreign idea. Holy patience. I won’t belabor the point, i just want you to observe it.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law…Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying…

Simeon knows what he is waiting for, he is waiting to see the Salvation of Israel. He does not need to see its fulfillment, or completion, he merely desires to see the Salvation, the Messiah, the Christ Child. When Jesus arrives in his arms, he praises God. He does not marvel in unbelief at the child, nor has he been told about the child by anyone but the Spirit. And yet he knows.

Two things strike me:

1) Jesus did not actually have a literal halo about his head.

Simeon had to recognize and see and hear the child in faith by the Spirit. Luke is teaching us several things I think. Firstly, the same Spirit who saved Israel through mighty deeds reveals this child as one of those mighty deeds.

Recognizing the Christ led Simeon to recognize his mother, and vice versa, textually it is the handing over of the Son that as it were, opens Simeon’s eyes, but once he opens his mouth to praise God for this salvation, it comes back to Mary as well. What exactly he means by a sword will pierce your own soul also, I am not sure, but commentators have commented that this is the sorrow of the crucifixion.

Simeon praises God, and I think Luke wants us to understand not only the continuity between Israel and Christ, but that the Might of God is as illuminating as it is powerful. Whereas Samson topples a temple of Pagans, God erects a temple through Jesus’ flesh, that we might all worship Him in the Child and Person of the Crucified-Glorified Jesus Son of Mary.

2) Simeon is an embodiment of what it means to wait for a holy death.

Simeon has another thing to teach us, what it means to die faithfully. I was struck by how God does not promise Simeon the completion of his vision, but works through Simeon to teach us about what it means to behold the Salvation of the Lord faithfully. Waiting for a holy death does not just mean awaiting death patiently, it means waiting with a certain type of anticipation in our hearts, an anticipation to see Christ Himself, Our Salvation, not only here in these words, but at the mass, and in communion, in the fellowship of the Spirit through our neighbors and in the deeds and actions the Spirit has carried out through the Saints and Mary.

‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

What a faithful response, what a way to praise God.

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

Mother Mary is the Co-Redemptrix of the faith. It means that with Jesus, Mary has a unique and redemptive role in the Crucifixion that is not a propitiatory role.

It is important to note that the prefix “co” in the title Coredemptrix does not mean “equal to” but rather “with”, coming from the Latin word cum. The Marian title Coredemptrix never places Mary on a level of equality with her Divine Son, Jesus Christ. Rather it refers to Mary’s unique human participation which is completely secondary and subordinate to the redeeming role of Jesus, who alone is true God and true Man.

She is not co-propitiation, which is what many people assume the doctrine means. The Church has not defined this as Dogma, and regardless of its canonical status as doctrine or as dogma, i think it is important we understand, that this title is NOT about her ability to atone for sins. The Church teaches against that. We have to understand that the language of the Church is Latin and so her definitions are in Latin, the Church does not bend to us, we recognize her authority. Again, this doctrine is NOT about Mary’s ability to atone for sins.

It is about her unique participation in the Christ Event. From the moment of her fiat when she says “Be it done unto me according to your word” until the act of offering her Son on the cross along with the Father, and beyond she is sharing Christ with us passively. Mary’s intense sufferings, united with those of her Son, as Pope John Paul II tells us in his encyclical, were, “also a contribution to the Redemption of us all” (Salvifici Doloris, n.25). This contribution however is not a propitiating contribution, it is a participatory contribution.

The doctrine suggests that Mary participates in the sacrifice of Christ as a human vessel par excellence and that she takes part in the offering of Christ up on the cross, but only passively. Only as the human element present in the death of Christ, showing us the height of human sorrow, and what indeed we should do to labor for the Lord, at behold our grief over our sins. Mary here is an analogical counterpart to the Father who suffers the loss of the Son as his particular suffering at the cross.

It takes both of their willful offering, both God and Mary, to undo the actions of Adam and Eve, because they must bother offer up through themselves the Christ, who then stands as the Sole Propitiate for all humanity. It takes God and Mary though because he is THEIR Son. He may be eternally the Son of God, but once He is born of the Virgin his eternal nature makes Him her son eternally also. Just as at the Birth of Christ, God and Mary meet each other and give life, so too at the death of Christ, God and Mary meet, and bring life through the death of their Son.

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Anna, like Simeon, has sensed the times, and the transpiring of events, and united herself to the Spirit who reveals to her, that her worship is not in vain, for the Redemption, not only of her history, but of all history had arrived.

Look at the difference in focus! Many of us see Christ redeeming us. Especially my protestant brothers and sisters, and while that is truly important, it’s all part of a much larger picture. The picture of God’s work to save all of Time and Space for Himself and His Son through the Son, and through the participating fiat of Mary.


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