Monday, March 30, 2009

On the Presentation

Yes, I know I'm fully a week behind. My apologies. But look on the bright side: If I can get back on track where I'm supposed to be, that means I'll be posting a meditation on the Institution of the Holy Eucharist on Holy Thursday! Woot!

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I used to puzzle over this mystery, but it has slowly but surely worked its way into my heart as a dearly beloved favorite! There's just so much here on which to wonder!

First off, the Holy Family comes into the Temple and Simeon is right there, praising the Christ Child (assuaging the internal doubts His parents had probably been fighting), proclaiming the glory of the Lord, and predicting the suffering of His dear Mother. And she held all these things in her heart. The fact that the whole Church prays in Simeon's words before retiring for the night suggests to me that their significance is even greater than I yet understand.

The reason they came to the Temple, of course, was for the traditional Jewish ceremony in which the son is circumcized and presented to God as a partaker in His covenant - symbolized by the naming. First, the circumcision. As I remarked a few months ago, our loving Savior could not wait 'till Calvary to redeem us by shedding His Precious Blood; He rushed to His circumcision, the drops of blood spilt from which were more than sufficient for us, and He has never stopped giving of Himself in such painful and intimate ways.

Again with Dr. Bergsma's class. He pointed out that in the original covenant God made with the Jews, each firstborn was consecrated to God's service, but that later on (as things changed) the sons of Aaron and Levi were the only ones who performed priestly duties. But because of the original covenant, an extra sacrifice was always made at this time to "redeem" the son from his duties as a lifelong servant of God in the Temple. No mention of such a sacrifice was made in the Gospel texts; thus we see that Jesus was never released from His duty to spend His life in the service of the Father and His people.

His naming. In Hebrew tradition, names were a big deal. Telling someone your name was a mark of intimacy; names weren't just thrown around like they are today. (Hence the fact that many Jews refuse to even speak or write the Divine Name, partly because it's too sacred to be profaned by letting just anyone hear It.) The name Jesus means "God saves" - talk about your name declaring your mission in life! Wow!

Another beautiful facet of the naming of Jesus is that it was always the father who presented the child to be named. St Joseph gave to Jesus His Name, as commanded by the angel, thereby truly owning his role as the Child's father. I'll come back to this next week, but St Joseph's fatherhood is so strikingly beautiful to me!

Then, of course, there's the sacrifice made for Mary's purification. Absolutely unnecessary, because she wasn't defiled in any way. But in profound humility she consented to go through the motions, for everyone else's sake (to avoid scandal and all that). That shoots straight through our innate desire to keep our good name clear, doesn't it?

Finally, to bookend it all is Anna's praise of the Child on the way out. At least, I seem to recall that she came in at the end of the event. Her words aren't recorded, but she was another voice praising, confirming God's great blessings. Don't you love how, when God gives us hard things, we ask Him for confirmation over and over again - and He gives it to us? It makes me smile to see Him confirming His plan for His family, even though Mary at least didn't need such confirmations to get by. It's beautiful how He takes care of His own, going above and beyond.

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