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presentation in the temple meaning

  • The Deeper Meaning of the Presentation in the Temple

By Clement Harrold

For many Catholics, the fourth joyful mystery—the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple—can be a difficult scene to meditate on. What’s the episode about, anyway? And what might be its deeper meaning?

Beginning with the first question, it’s important to remember that the Presentation described in Luke 2:22-38 is not the circumcision of Jesus. That already took place eight days after His birth. Rather, the Presentation took place in order to fulfill two different dictates of the Mosaic Law.

The first of these, drawn from Leviticus 12, mandated that mothers needed to be purified forty days after giving birth to a male child. This is why the Presentation is celebrated in the Church’s calendar on February 2nd—also known as “Candlemas,” an allusion to Simeon’s words about the boy Jesus being “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32)—because the event takes place forty days after the nativity (counting December 25 as day one).

In order to make the purification, the mother in question was required to sacrifice a lamb as well as either a pigeon or a turtledove. The law made provision, however, for those families who were too poor to afford a lamb, in which case they could sacrifice two pigeons or two turtledoves instead. St. Luke goes out of his way to inform the reader that this is exactly what the Holy Family did, thereby reminding us of their material poverty (see Lk 2:24).

The second precept of the Mosaic Law which Mary and Joseph were following is the requirement from Exodus 13:2 that all firstborns be consecrated to God in a special way. More specifically, this ritual rested on the understanding that the firstborn naturally belonged to God, and so the child’s human parents were expected to “redeem” (from the Latin redimō , meaning to “buy back”) their child by paying five shekels to the priest.

All of this helps us to see that the Presentation in the Temple was about two important things: (1) the purification of Mary and (2) the redemption of baby Jesus. So far so good. But there are two other elements here which are worth paying attention to. For one thing, the Mosaic Law nowhere demanded that the purification or the redemption take place within the Temple. This means that the Holy Family was being extra devout by going to the Temple for this special day.

Additionally, there is one detail in the Presentation narrative which is startling for its absence. While St. Luke does mention that Mary and Joseph bought the two turtledoves, he never takes the time to mention the paying of the five shekels to redeem baby Jesus. In other words, he cites the redeeming-of-the-firstborns precept laid down in Exodus 13:2, but he leaves out a description of this redemption taking place. Why might that be?

For the late Pope Benedict XVI, in his Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives , the answer was obvious. St. Luke leaves a literary silence in the passage in order to drive home the point that the infant Jesus belongs to His Heavenly Father:

Evidently Luke intends to say that instead of being “redeemed” and restored to his parents, this child was personally handed over to God in the Temple, given over completely to God. . . . Luke has nothing to say regarding the act of “redemption” prescribed by the law. In its place we find the exact opposite: the child is handed over to God, and from now on belongs to him completely. (p. 3)

Understanding this detail can help us bring the fourth joyful mystery to life in a new way. The Presentation isn’t just another boring religious ritual. On the contrary, it is a deeply symbolic moment pointing to Jesus’s divine identity, and to Mary and Joseph’s perfect cooperation with His divine mission.

Further Reading:

Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (Image, 2012)

Clement Harrold is a graduate student in theology at the University of Notre Dame. His writings have appeared in  First Things ,  Church Life Journal ,  Crisis Magazine , and the  Washington Examiner . He earned his bachelor's degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2021.

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The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

"A Light of Revelation to the Gentiles"

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Known originally as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a relatively ancient celebration. The Church at Jerusalem observed the feast as early as the first half of the fourth century, and likely earlier. The feast celebrates the presentation of Christ in the temple at Jerusalem on the 40th day after His birth.

Quick Facts

  • Date:  February 2
  • Type of Feast:  Feast
  • Readings:  Malachi 3:1-4; Psalm 24:7, 8, 9, 10; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40 ( full text here )
  • Prayers:   Nunc  Dimities , the Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32); see below
  • Other Names for the Feast:  Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, the Meeting of the Lord, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

History of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

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").

Saint Mary and Saint Joseph kept this law, even though, since Saint Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ, she would not have had to go through ritual purification. In his gospel, Luke recounts the story ( Luke 2:22-39 ).

When Christ was presented in the temple, "there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel" ( Luke 2:25 ) When Saint Mary and Saint Joseph brought Christ to the temple, Simeon embraced the Child and prayed the Canticle of Simeon:

Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel ( Luke 2:29-32 ).

The Original Date of the Presentation

Originally, the feast was celebrated on February 14, the 40th day after Epiphany (January 6), because Christmas wasn't yet celebrated as its own feast, and so the Nativity, Epiphany, the Baptism of the Lord (Theophany), and the feast celebrating Christ's first miracle at the wedding in Cana were all celebrated on the same day. By the last quarter of the fourth century, however, the Church at Rome had begun to celebrate the Nativity on December 25, so the Feast of the Presentation was moved to February 2, 40 days later.

Why Candlemas?

Inspired by the words of the Canticle of Simeon ("a light to the revelation of the Gentiles"), by the 11th century, the custom had developed in the West of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation. The candles were then lit, and a procession took place through the darkened church while the Canticle of Simeon was sung. Because of this, the feast also became known as Candlemas. While the procession and blessing of the candles is not often performed in the United States today, Candlemas is still an important feast in many European countries.

Reflections for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Introduction:    This feast commemorates how Jesus, as a baby, was presented to God in the Temple in Jerusalem. This presentation finds its complete and perfect fulfillment in the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. The  Feast of the Presentation of the Lord   is a combined feast ,  commemorating the Jewish practice of the  purification of the mother  after childbirth and the  presentation of the child  to God in the Temple and his buying back ( redemption ) from God. It is also known as the  Feast of the Purification of Mary , and the Feast  of Candlemas.  It is also called the  Feast of Encounter  ( Hypapánte  in Greek) because the New Testament, represented by the baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna. Joseph offered two pigeons in the Temple as sacrifice for the purification of Mary after her childbirth and for the presentation and redemption ceremonies performed for baby Jesus.

Homily starter anecdote: “Four chaplains Sunday:  Julia Duin in the Washington Times Sunday, February 1, 2009 told this story. Just after midnight on Feb. 3, 1943, an act of extraordinary unselfishness by a group of men became a legend of martyrdom and sacrifice. When the Army ship Dorchester was torpedoed by the Germans just south of Greenland that night, its passengers and crew had 25 minutes to get off the boat. As 902 people went for the life jackets, it quickly was discovered there weren’t near enough. Of the 13 lifeboats, only two functioned. In the ship’s final minutes, Methodist senior chaplain George Lansing Fox, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Dutch Reformed minister Clark V. Poling and John P. Washington, a Roman Catholic priest, were helping passengers leave the vessel. Then four men appeared all of them without life jackets. The chaplains quickly gave up their own vests and went down with the ship, perishing in the freezing water. Survivors saw them, locked arm in arm, praying and singing the Navy hymn, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” just before the ship dove beneath the waves. It was a night as dramatic as the sinking of the Titanic but without a blockbuster movie to record the drama. “The Four Immortal Chaplains,” as they are now known, have been honored many times, including on a stamp issued in their honor by the U.S. Postal Service. Hence the first Sunday in February is known as “Four Chaplains Sunday” in some Christian denominations.  They presented and offered themselves completely for the wellbeing of others as Jesus was presented to God his Heavenly Father in the Temple of Jerusalem for the salvation of the world. (

Scripture lessons summarized:   In the   first reading,  taken from Malachi, the prophet speaks of the Lord suddenly coming to Jerusalem to purify the lax, lazy and indifferent priests of His Temple as silver is purified by fire. Simeon saw the Infant Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage. He saw Jesus as the Lord Who has come to the Temple,  "destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel."    In the second reading,  St. Paul   proclaims Jesus as our Eternal High Priest of     the New Covenant (Heb 2:17), Who offered himself on the altar of Calvary, the only pure priestly sacrifice that could please God.    He replaces the former priesthood.  The Gospel  describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the Child’s “redemption.” It also describes the Holy Family’s encounter with the old prophet Simeon and the holy old widow Anna. In his prophecy, Simeon extols the divine blessings which the Messiah is bringing to Israel and to all men and predicts that Mary will play a crucial and sacrificial role in her Son's redemptive work by sharing in her Son's sufferings.

The first reading explained : Malachi prophesies in the first reading that the Lord is going to appear suddenly in the Temple of Jerusalem  to purify its priests and the people . The prophecy warns that nobody can endure the day of the messenger's coming because he will be like a refining fire, purifying the sons of Levi.  Led by the Spirit,  Simeon saw the Infant Jesus as the fulfillment of this passage .  Simeon, even if unknown to himself, foresaw Christ and His priests of the New Covenant who were ordained during the Last Supper. He saw Jesus as the Lord Who would come to the Temple,  "destined to be the downfall and rise of many in Israel."  In today's reading, Malachi prophesies that God will purify the lax, lazy and indifferent priests of His Temple as silver is purified by fire.  At the time of Malachi (around 460-450 BC), the priests were offering blemished (blind, lame) sacrifices and giving bad example (1:6-2:4).  The people were negligent in their support of the Temple (3:6-12). Israelite wives were being rejected by husbands who wished to marry foreign women (2:14-16). Social injustice was rampant (3:5), and the people doubted God’s love (1:2-5). Hence, Malachi reminds them that the Day of the Lord, a Day of Judgment, reward and retribution is coming. He describes the Divine intervention as a two-stage process. First God’s messenger will appear to prepare the way by purifying the clergy and refining the cult (v. 3). This purification will take place until they present offerings to the Lord in a spirit of justice and righteousness. Then, the Lord of Hosts will suddenly appear in the Temple (v. 1), to bring judgment and justice against unfaithful sinners (v. 5). The Psalm announces to Jerusalem that Jerusalem is about to receive a great visitor. The Psalmist identifies him as “The LORD of hosts … the king of glory.”

The second reading explained:  The second reading proclaims Jesus as our Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb 2:17), Who offered Himself on the altar of Calvary, the only pure priestly sacrifice that could please God. The  Didache  or the first catechism of the early Church (14:1-3), saw Malachi’s prophecy of a pure sacrifice and offering made from east to west as a prophecy of the sacrifice of the Eucharist.  Hence Malachi prophesies that the Lord will enter His Temple, there will be a renewed priesthood, and there will be a pure sacrifice offered worldwide and pleasing to God -- the Eucharist. Jesus became like us in all things except sin in order that He might offer to the Father perfect praise and glory.  Besides, since Jesus fully shared our experience, He is now a merciful and faithful High Priest on our behalf,  "able to help those who are being tested."   Jesus replaces the former priesthood. In keeping with the theme of today’s feast, namely, the presentation of the first fruits, this excerpt from Hebrews emphasizes Jesus’ dual role, as  first-fruits ,  par excellence , and as the  faithful High priest  Who presents the perfect gift of Himself to God for the expiation of human sin. By virtue of His Incarnation, Jesus became human in every way (vv. 17-18) except as regards sin. As representative of His brothers and sisters before God and as their Mediator, Christ perfected His service as both sacrifice and priest. By so doing, Christ was able to “rob the devil” of power (v. 14). As the first-fruits from the dead, as the conqueror of sin and death, Christ, in His person and through His mission, has set the course and cleared the way we are to follow; the decision to do so must be a daily and deliberate one.  It takes faith to see God's power at work in the death of Jesus.  Simeon hinted at this when he told Mary that she herself would be pierced with a sword.  Even knowing that her Son was the Savior of the world, it would be difficult for Mary to see him accomplish that salvation by being crucified.

Exegesis of today’s Gospel:  The birth of Christ was revealed by three kinds of witnesses in three different ways -- first, by the shepherds, after the angel's announcement; second, by the Magi, who were guided by a star; third, by Simeon and Anna, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel describes the Presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple. It was intended to ritually redeem Jesus who was the first born in the family and where Mary herself will have to be ritually purified. Mary and Joseph was a typical pious Jewish couple, who went to the Temple in obedience to do all that was required and expected of them by the Law.The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus is a combined feast , commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypapánte   feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and a sacrifice offered in the Temple to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), the Feast of Candlemas (because of its ancient rite of blessing of the candles to be used in the church for the next year — a practice dating from the middle of the fifth century) and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). Originally, there was no connection between today’s festival and the blessing of candles.    In the ancient East, this celebration occurred on February 14, forty days after Epiphany.   On February 15, pagans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia , a great “light” festival.    Perhaps this is an instance of the Church's “baptizing” a pagan custom.    At the principal Mass, the celebrant blesses candles, and people take part in a candlelight procession.    This should remind us that Jesus is our High Priest and the Light of the World.

Purification and redemption ceremonies : The Gospel describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the child’s “redemption.” According to Leviticus 12:2-8, a woman who bore a child was unclean  for forty days following the birth of a son or eighty days following the birth of a daughter.   Although Mary, the most holy of women, ever-Virgin, was exempt from these precepts of the Law, because of her miraculous conception, she chose to submit herself to the Law just like any other Jewish mother. Joseph and Mary showed their total submission to Law and obey the norms prescribed by the Old Testament.  The custom was practiced probably for the physical and emotional re-integration of the new mother into the community. There was a religious reason as well. Exodus 13:2, 12-13 prescribes that every first-born male belongs to God and must be set apart for the Lord, that is, dedicated to the service of God.  However, once divine worship was reserved to the tribe of Levi, first-born who did not belong to that tribe were not dedicated to God's service, and to show that they continued to be God's special property, a rite of redemption was performed. The Law also commanded that the Israelites should offer in sacrifice some lesser victim -- for example, a lamb or, if they were poor, a pair of doves or two pigeons.  The Book of Numbers 18: 15 taught that since every Jewish firstborn male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” (redeem), the child by offering a lamb or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. The price of redemption for a human baby is five shekels of silver (Num 18:15-16). Jesus never needed to be "bought back," as he belonged wholly to the Lord, but Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God. 

The encounter with Simeon and Anna :   By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. The Greek Church celebrates the Hypapánte or Feast of the Encounter commemorating the encounter of the New Testament represented by Jesus with the Old Testament represented by Simeon and Anna. Simeon, who is described as a righteous and devout man, obedient to God's will, addresses himself to our Lord as a vassal or loyal servant who, having kept watch all his life in expectation of the coming of his Lord, sees that this moment has "now" come, the moment that explains his whole life.  When he takes the Child in his arms, he learns, not through any reasoning process but through a special grace from God, that this Child is the promised Messiah, the Consolation of Israel, the Light of the nations.  Simeon recognizes Jesus as the Lord’s anointed one, and in his prayer of blessing he prophesies that Jesus is meant to be the glory of Israel and the light of revelation to the Gentiles. Pope Francis: “Simeon took him in his arms and thanked God that he had finally “seen” salvation. Anna, despite her advanced age, found new vigor and began to speak to everyone about the Baby. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations! He is the inexhaustible font of that love which overcomes every occasion of self-absorption, solitude, and sadness. In your journey as a family, you share so many beautiful moments: meals, rest, housework, leisure, prayer, trips and pilgrimages, and times of mutual support… Nevertheless, if there is no love then there is no joy, and authentic love comes to us from Jesus. He offers us his word, which illuminates our path; he gives us the Bread of life which sustains us on our journey.”

Simeon’s prophecy: Simeon's canticle (verses 29-32) is also a prophecy.  It consists of two stanzas: the first (verses 29-30) is his act of thanksgiving to God, filled with profound joy for having seen the Messiah.  The second (verses 31-32) is more obviously prophetic and extols the divine blessings which the Messiah is bringing to Israel and to all men.  The canticle highlights the fact that Christ brings redemption to all men without exception -- something foretold in many Old Testament prophecies (cf. Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 2:6; 42:6; 60:3; Psalm 28:2). While Simeon blessed Mary, he warned her that her child would be “ a sign of contradiction, ” and that she would be “ pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah. Jesus came to bring salvation to all men, yet He would be a sign of contradiction because some people would obstinately reject Him -- and for this reason He would be their ruin.  But for those who would accept Him with faith, Jesus would be their salvation, freeing them from sin in this life and raising them up to eternal life. The Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph marveled, but not because they did not know who Christ was. They were in awe at the way God was revealing Him. 

The paradox of blessedness:  Mary was given the blessedness of being the mother of the Son of God.  That blessedness also would become a sword which would pierce her heart as her Son died upon the cross. The words Simeon addressed to Mary announced that she would be intimately linked with her Son's redemptive work.  The sword indicated that Mary would have a share in her Son's sufferings. Her suffering would be an unspeakable pain which would pierce her soul.  Our Lord suffered on the cross for our sins, and it is those sins which forged the sword of Mary's pain.  Mary received both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow.  But her joy was not diminished by her sorrow because it was fueled by her faith, hope, and trust in God and his promises.  Jesus promised his disciples, "no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:22).  The Lord gives us a supernatural joy which enables us to bear any sorrow or pain and which neither life nor death can take way.  Do you know the joy of a life fully surrendered to God with faith and trust? According to Dr. Scot Hann, the feast we celebrate shows a curious turn of events. The Redeemer is redeemed. She who is all-pure presents herself to be purified. Such is the humility of our God. Such is the humility of the Blessed Virgin. They submit to the law even though they are not bound by it.

Anna’s encounter with the Lord and her testifying to the Messiah:  Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement, she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah. Supernatural hope grows with prayer and age!  Anna was pre-eminently a woman of great hope and expectation that God would fulfill all his promises. She is a model of godliness for all believers as we advance in age.  Advancing age and the disappointments of life can easily make us cynical and hopeless if we do not have our hope placed rightly. Anna's hope in God and His promises grew with age. She never ceased to worship God in faith and to pray with hope.  Her hope and faith in God's promises fueled her indomitable zeal and fervor in prayer and the service of God's people. We grow in hope by placing our trust in the promises of Jesus Christ and relying not on our own strength, but on the grace and help of the Holy Spirit. After completing the presentation and redemption of baby Jesus and the ritual purification of Mary and the meeting with Simeon and Anna, Joseph and Mary understood more fully their responsibility before God to protect the child as they return to Nazareth

Life messages : 1)  Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation . Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives.

2) We need the assistance of the Holy Spirit to recognize the presence of Jesus in ourselves and in others: All those who, like Simeon and Anna, persevere in piety and in the service of God, no matter how insignificant their lives seem in men's eyes, become instruments the Holy Spirit uses to make Christ known to others. In His plan of redemption, God makes use of these simple souls to do much good for all mankind. In other words, The Holy Spirit employs ordinary men and women with simple faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, His ideals and teachings, just as He used Simeon and Anna.  The Holy Spirit reveals the presence of the Lord to us when we are receptive and eager to receive Him.  Let us be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within us to recognize the indwelling presence of the Lord with us and in others.  (Fr. Antony Kadavil)

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The Feast of the Presentation

The Feast of the Presentation

According to the Church’s liturgical calendar, the feast held on Feb. 2 each year is in honor of the Presentation of the Lord. Some Catholics recall this day as the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary because such was the feast day named until the 1969 changes in the Church’s calendar.

In fact, according to Luke’s Gospel, the presentation of Jesus and the purification of the Blessed Mother took place in the Temple on the same day, and both are remembered during Mass on Feb. 2. Also, in several countries, Candlemas is simultaneously celebrated on this day and involves a candlelight procession that was popularized in the Middle Ages. Until the Second Vatican Council the feasts on Feb. 2 ended the Christmas season. Today, the season ends in January on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

As early as the fourth century Christians commemorated the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, but, at the time, there was no feast name attached. In seventh-century Rome, the Church named the celebration the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mother Mary, and it remained that way for nearly 1,300 years. In the reforms after Vatican II, the feast was given a stronger focus on Jesus (by stressing the Presentation of Jesus), but clearly the events of purification and presentation that took place when Jesus was 40 days old (see Lk 2:22-39) are tied together and thus commemorated together.

Purification and Presentation

Under Mosaic law found in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, a Jewish woman who gave birth to a child was considered unclean (see 12:1-8). The mother of a newborn could not routinely go out into public and had to avoid all things sacred, including the Temple. If her child was a male, this exclusion lasted for 40 days. If the child was female, the period lasted 80 days. This was a ceremonial seclusion and not the result of sin or some kind of wrongdoing on the part of the mother.

At the end of the 40 or 80 days the woman presented herself at the Temple to be purified. If the baby was her firstborn male child, the infant was brought along to the Temple to be dedicated to the Lord. The law in Exodus specifies that the first male child belongs to God (see 13:2-16). This law is a tribute to God for His sparing the firstborn Israelite males during the time of the Exodus from Egypt. The firstborn Egyptian male children, of course, were not spared.

The mother’s purification ritual obliged her to bring, or purchase at the Temple, a lamb and a turtledove as sacrificial offerings. The lamb was offered in thanksgiving to God for the successful birth of the child; the turtledove was a sin offering. Families that could not afford a lamb could bring two pigeons or two turtledoves. After these animals were sacrificed, the Temple priest prayed over the woman and she could once again resume her normal role or status.

Mary, the ever spotless Mother of God, certainly did not have to comply with this ritual, but did so to honor God and observe all the rules handed down by Moses. She was the holiest of all women, but she still submitted to the humbling requirements of the law. She remained at home for 40 days, denied herself all association with sacred things and on the day required walked the five miles from Bethlehem to the Temple in Jerusalem. Arriving at the Temple, Mary likely stood in line and waited her turn to see the priest.

Nunc Dimittis

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to the Temple offering two turtledoves for Mary’s purification. Along with Mary’s willing submission, Jesus is presented into the hands of the priest and thus to God. In accordance with the Old Testament, the child was blessed and then bought or ransomed back by the family who would pay five shekels into the Temple treasury. The Savior of the world is ransomed in the manner of every other Hebrew boy. “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord’”(Lk 2:22-24; see Nm 18:15-16).

The Gospel of Luke explains that the old prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna were at the Temple that day (see 2:22-38). They, like many others, had spent their lifetime waiting, longing for a Messiah, and the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. Among all the children and mothers coming into the Temple, Simeon recognized Jesus as the Christ Child; he held Jesus and exclaimed this hymn of thanksgiving, “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” (2:29-32). The hymn has traditionally been termed the Nunc Dimittis , from the Latin, “ Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace .”

Like Mary, Jesus the Divine Son of God did not have to undergo these rituals, but His parents willingly complied in order to pay tribute to Jewish laws, to avoid any possible scandal and in so doing demonstrated profound humility. They acquiesced to the law like all poor Jewish families.

The Holy Family must have experienced great joy, even wonder at all that had happened to them. Consider the events of the previous weeks. First, the shepherds miraculously arrived to adore and praise Jesus on the night He was born. And now, Simeon, another stranger, singles out Jesus as the Savior, not only of Israel but of the world. Someday all the other children being presented will know Jesus as their Savior. But here in the Temple there is also pain. The old prophet, moved by the Holy Spirit, tells Mary that she will experience unspeakable grief because of the outrageous way the world would judge and treat her Son. But Mary remained always committed to God’s will and to her Son.

Feb. 2 is on the liturgical calendar as the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, but in addition to the presentation, the Mass recalls Mary’s humble submission to the purification ritual.

D.D. Emmons writes from O’Fallon, Ill.  

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The Presentation of the Lord: a symbol of the Messiah’s embrace

Pope Francis says Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St. Peter's Basilica, Feb. 2, 2022.

By ACI Prensa

ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 2, 2024 / 04:00 am

Every Feb. 2, the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Mary and Joseph bring the newborn Jesus to the Temple, the holy place, the house of God. The presentation of the firstborn son is equivalent to his “consecration” — it is an act of thanksgiving for the gift received from the hands of the Creator, the source of life.

In the Temple, the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — meet two elderly people, faithful keepers of God’s law: Simeon and Anna. That simple event contains a profound Christian symbolism: It is the embrace of the Lord of his people, who await the Messiah. That is why the liturgy sings: “You, Lord, are the light that enlightens the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Acclamation before the Gospel, Lk 2:32).

The Law of Moses

On this day, simultaneously, we remember the ritual purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary after she gave birth to the Savior: “When the time for Mary’s purification according to the Law of Moses had passed, she and Joseph brought the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, according to what is written in the law, ‘Every firstborn male child shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and also to offer, as the law says, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Lk 2:22-24).

According to the ancient custom of the people of Israel, 40 days after the birth of a firstborn child, he was to be brought to the Temple for his presentation. For this reason, the Church counts 40 days after Christmas Day (Dec. 25) to the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2.

The prophecies of Simeon and Anna

Arriving at the Temple, the parents of Jesus with the child in their arms meet Simeon, the man whom the Holy Spirit promised would not die before seeing the Savior of the world. It was the same Spirit who put in the mouth of this prophet that this little child would be the Redeemer and Savior of mankind: 

“This child is destined to bring about the fall of many in Israel, and also the rise of many others. He was sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will come to light, and a sword will pierce your own soul” (Lk 2: 34-35, from the Canticle of Simeon, Lk 2:22-40, known as “Nunc Dimittis” because of the Latin words with which it begins: “Now you leave”).

“Also that day there was in the Temple the daughter of Phanuel, of the Tribe of Asher, named Anna. She was a woman of very advanced age; she had been widowed only seven years after her marriage and remained so until she was 84 years old. Anna walked day and night in the Temple, worshipping God, offering fasting and prayers. When she saw the child, she recognized him and began to proclaim to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem that salvation had come” (Lk 2:36-38).

This story is from ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, and has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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“Chapter 6: Presentation at the Temple,” New Testament Stories (2005), 16–17

“Chapter 6,” New Testament Stories, 16–17

presentation in the temple meaning

Presentation at the Temple

When Jesus was just a few weeks old, His parents brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him at the temple.

Simeon, a righteous man who lived in Jerusalem, was at the temple. The Holy Ghost told him he would see Christ before he died.

Luke 2:25–26

Simeon saw the baby Jesus at the temple. He held Him in his arms and praised God.

Luke 2:27–29

Simeon said that the child would bring salvation to all people. Joseph and Mary marvelled at what he said.

Luke 2:30–33

A widow named Anna also saw Jesus and knew who He was. She gave thanks and told many people about Him.

Luke 2:36–38

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

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  • Introduction

The Birth of Jesus. 1 * In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus * that the whole world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, a 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. b 6 While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn son. * She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. c

8 * Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. 9 The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. d 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 * e For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

14 * “Glory to God in the highest f

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The Visit of the Shepherds. 15 When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. 18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. 19 And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus. 21 When eight days were completed for his circumcision, * he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. g

The Presentation in the Temple. 22 * When the days were completed for their purification * according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, h 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” i 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, * and the holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. 27 He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, 28 he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

29 “Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, j

31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.” k

33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; 34 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 l 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) * so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. 38 And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. m

The Return to Nazareth. 39 When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. n 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. o

The Boy Jesus in the Temple. * 41 Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, p 42 and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. 43 After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” * 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. q 52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. r

* [ 2:1 – 2 ] Although universal registrations of Roman citizens are attested in 28 B.C., 8 B.C., and A.D. 14 and enrollments in individual provinces of those who are not Roman citizens are also attested, such a universal census of the Roman world under Caesar Augustus is unknown outside the New Testament. Moreover, there are notorious historical problems connected with Luke’s dating the census when Quirinius was governor of Syria , and the various attempts to resolve the difficulties have proved unsuccessful. P. Sulpicius Quirinius became legate of the province of Syria in A.D. 6–7 when Judea was annexed to the province of Syria. At that time, a provincial census of Judea was taken up. If Quirinius had been legate of Syria previously, it would have to have been before 10 B.C. because the various legates of Syria from 10 B.C. to 4 B.C. (the death of Herod) are known, and such a dating for an earlier census under Quirinius would create additional problems for dating the beginning of Jesus’ ministry ( Lk 3:1 , 23 ). A previous legateship after 4 B.C. (and before A.D. 6) would not fit with the dating of Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod ( Lk 1:5 ; Mt 2:1 ). Luke may simply be combining Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem with his vague recollection of a census under Quirinius (see also Acts 5:37 ) to underline the significance of this birth for the whole Roman world: through this child born in Bethlehem peace and salvation come to the empire.

* [ 2:1 ] Caesar Augustus : the reign of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus is usually dated from 27 B.C. to his death in A.D. 14. According to Greek inscriptions, Augustus was regarded in the Roman Empire as “savior” and “god,” and he was credited with establishing a time of peace, the pax Augusta , throughout the Roman world during his long reign. It is not by chance that Luke relates the birth of Jesus to the time of Caesar Augustus: the real savior ( Lk 2:11 ) and peace-bearer ( Lk 2:14 ; see also Lk 19:38 ) is the child born in Bethlehem. The great emperor is simply God’s agent (like the Persian king Cyrus in Is 44:28 – 45:1 ) who provides the occasion for God’s purposes to be accomplished. The whole world : that is, the whole Roman world: Rome, Italy, and the Roman provinces.

* [ 2:7 ] Firstborn son : the description of Jesus as firstborn son does not necessarily mean that Mary had other sons. It is a legal description indicating that Jesus possessed the rights and privileges of the firstborn son ( Gn 27 ; Ex 13:2 ; Nm 3:12 – 13 ; 18:15 – 16 ; Dt 21:15 – 17 ). See notes on Mt 1:25 ; Mk 6:3 . Wrapped him in swaddling clothes : there may be an allusion here to the birth of another descendant of David, his son Solomon, who though a great king was wrapped in swaddling clothes like any other infant ( Wis 7:4 – 6 ). Laid him in a manger : a feeding trough for animals. A possible allusion to Is 1:3 LXX.

* [ 2:8 – 20 ] The announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds is in keeping with Luke’s theme that the lowly are singled out as the recipients of God’s favors and blessings (see also Lk 1:48 , 52 ).

* [ 2:11 ] The basic message of the infancy narrative is contained in the angel’s announcement: this child is savior , Messiah , and Lord . Luke is the only synoptic gospel writer to use the title savior for Jesus ( Lk 2:11 ; Acts 5:31 ; 13:23 ; see also Lk 1:69 ; 19:9 ; Acts 4:12 ). As savior, Jesus is looked upon by Luke as the one who rescues humanity from sin and delivers humanity from the condition of alienation from God. The title christos , “Christ,” is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew māšîaḥ , “Messiah,” “anointed one.” Among certain groups in first-century Palestinian Judaism, the title was applied to an expected royal leader from the line of David who would restore the kingdom to Israel (see Acts 1:6 ). The political overtones of the title are played down in Luke and instead the Messiah of the Lord ( Lk 2:26 ) or the Lord’s anointed is the one who now brings salvation to all humanity, Jew and Gentile ( Lk 2:29 – 32 ). Lord is the most frequently used title for Jesus in Luke and Acts. In the New Testament it is also applied to Yahweh, as it is in the Old Testament. When used of Jesus it points to his transcendence and dominion over humanity.

* [ 2:14 ] On earth peace to those on whom his favor rests : the peace that results from the Christ event is for those whom God has favored with his grace. This reading is found in the oldest representatives of the Western and Alexandrian text traditions and is the preferred one; the Byzantine text tradition, on the other hand, reads: “on earth peace, good will toward men.” The peace of which Luke’s gospel speaks ( Lk 2:14 ; 7:50 ; 8:48 ; 10:5 – 6 ; 19:38 , 42 ; 24:36 ) is more than the absence of war of the pax Augusta ; it also includes the security and well-being characteristic of peace in the Old Testament.

* [ 2:21 ] Just as John before him had been incorporated into the people of Israel through his circumcision, so too this child (see note on Lk 1:57 – 66 ).

* [ 2:22 – 40 ] The presentation of Jesus in the temple depicts the parents of Jesus as devout Jews, faithful observers of the law of the Lord ( Lk 2:23 – 24 , 39 ), i.e., the law of Moses. In this respect, they are described in a fashion similar to the parents of John ( Lk 1:6 ) and Simeon ( Lk 2:25 ) and Anna ( Lk 2:36 – 37 ).

* [ 2:22 ] Their purification : syntactically, their must refer to Mary and Joseph, even though the Mosaic law never mentions the purification of the husband. Recognizing the problem, some Western scribes have altered the text to read “his purification,” understanding the presentation of Jesus in the temple as a form of purification; the Vulgate version has a Latin form that could be either “his” or “her.” According to the Mosaic law ( Lv 12:2 – 8 ), the woman who gives birth to a boy is unable for forty days to touch anything sacred or to enter the temple area by reason of her legal impurity. At the end of this period she is required to offer a year-old lamb as a burnt offering and a turtledove or young pigeon as an expiation of sin. The woman who could not afford a lamb offered instead two turtledoves or two young pigeons, as Mary does here. They took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord : as the firstborn son ( Lk 2:7 ) Jesus was consecrated to the Lord as the law required ( Ex 13:2 , 12 ), but there was no requirement that this be done at the temple. The concept of a presentation at the temple is probably derived from 1 Sm 1:24 – 28 , where Hannah offers the child Samuel for sanctuary services. The law further stipulated ( Nm 3:47 – 48 ) that the firstborn son should be redeemed by the parents through their payment of five shekels to a member of a priestly family. About this legal requirement Luke is silent.

* [ 2:25 ] Awaiting the consolation of Israel : Simeon here and later Anna who speak about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem represent the hopes and expectations of faithful and devout Jews who at this time were looking forward to the restoration of God’s rule in Israel. The birth of Jesus brings these hopes to fulfillment.

* [ 2:35 ] (And you yourself a sword will pierce) : Mary herself will not be untouched by the various reactions to the role of Jesus ( Lk 2:34 ). Her blessedness as mother of the Lord will be challenged by her son who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it” ( Lk 11:27 – 28 and Lk 8:20 – 21 ).

* [ 2:41 – 52 ] This story’s concern with an incident from Jesus’ youth is unique in the canonical gospel tradition. It presents Jesus in the role of the faithful Jewish boy, raised in the traditions of Israel, and fulfilling all that the law requires. With this episode, the infancy narrative ends just as it began, in the setting of the Jerusalem temple.

* [ 2:49 ] I must be in my Father’s house : this phrase can also be translated, “I must be about my Father’s work.” In either translation, Jesus refers to God as his Father. His divine sonship, and his obedience to his heavenly Father’s will, take precedence over his ties to his family.

a. [ 2:4 ] Mi 5:2 ; Mt 2:6 .

b. [ 2:5 ] 1:27 ; Mt 1:18 .

c. [ 2:7 ] Mt 1:25 .

d. [ 2:9 ] 1:11 , 26 .

e. [ 2:11 ] Mt 1:21 ; 16:16 ; Jn 4:42 ; Acts 2:36 ; 5:31 ; Phil 2:11 .

f. [ 2:14 ] 19:38 .

g. [ 2:21 ] 1:31 ; Gn 17:12 ; Mt 1:21 .

h. [ 2:22 – 24 ] Lv 12:2 – 8 .

i. [ 2:23 ] Ex 13:2 , 12 .

j. [ 2:30 – 31 ] 3:6 ; Is 40:5 LXX; 52:10 .

k. [ 2:32 ] Is 42:6 ; 46:13 ; 49:6 ; Acts 13:47 ; 26:23 .

l. [ 2:34 ] 12:51 ; Is 8:14 ; Jn 9:39 ; Rom 9:33 ; 1 Cor 1:23 ; 1 Pt 2:7 – 8 .

m. [ 2:38 ] Is 52:9 .

n. [ 2:39 ] Mt 2:23 .

o. [ 2:40 ] 1:80 ; 2:52 .

p. [ 2:41 ] Ex 12:24 – 27 ; 23:15 ; Dt 16:1 – 8 .

q. [ 2:51 ] 2:19 .

r. [ 2:52 ] 1:80 ; 2:40 ; 1 Sm 2:26 .


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presentation in the temple meaning


This feast, celebrated on February 2, is known in the Orthodox Church as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Another name for the feast is The Meeting of our Lord. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians call the feast, The Purification of the Holy Virgin. About 450 AD in Jerusalem, people began the custom of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. Therefore, some churches in the West refer to this holy day as Candlemas. The Feast of the Presentation concludes the observances related to the Nativity of Christ, a period that opened on November 15 with the beginning of the Nativity fast.

Biblical Story

The story of the Presentation is told in Luke 2:22-29. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and observed their religious customs. An important custom was for the couple to take their first-born son to the Temple. The baby was taken to the Temple forty days after his birth and was dedicated to God. In addition, if the parents were wealthy, they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The custom provided that if the parents were poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice.

presentation in the temple meaning

When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy, so they took two turtle doves with them to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple. As they arrived at the Temple, Mary and Joseph were met by a very old man named Simeon. He was a holy man and was noted as a very intelligent scholar. Simeon spent much time studying about the prophets of Israel. It was during his studies that he learned of the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to come and deliver Israel from their conquerors. From that time on, Simeon spent his time praying for the Messiah to come. He spent many years in prayer. Finally, while Simeon was praying he heard the voice of God. God promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.

"Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel."

presentation in the temple meaning

Also, in the Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for many years. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in the Temple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw the Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah.

After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee to the town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom.

Icon of the Feast

The Holy Icon shows that the meeting takes place inside the Temple and in front of the altar. The altar has a book or a scroll on it and is covered by a canopy. The Theotokos stands to the left and is holding out her hands in a gesture of offering. The one hand of the Theotokos is covered by her cloak or as it is known, the maphorion. She has just handed her Son to Simeon.

presentation in the temple meaning

Christ is shown as a child, but He is not in swaddling clothes. He is clothed in a small dress and his legs are bare. Jesus appears to be giving a blessing. Simeon holds Jesus with both hands which are covered. This shows the reverence Simeon had for the Messiah. Simeon is bare headed and there is nothing to show that he is a priest. Some biblical scholars say that Simeon was probably a priest of the Temple or a Doctor of the Law.

Joseph is behind the Theotokos. He is carrying the two turtle doves for the sacrifice. Anna the Prophetess is also standing behind the Theotokos and is pointing to the Christ child.

presentation in the temple meaning

The words Simeon spoke when he saw the Christ Child are known as "St. Simeon's Prayer." This prayer is sung daily at the evening Vespers services of the Orthodox Church.

In the Orthodox Church, both baby boys and baby girls are taken to the Church on the fortieth day after their birth. This is done in remembrance of the Theotokos and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple.

Orthodox Celebration of the Feast of the Presentation

This Feast of our Lord is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is conducted on the day of the Feast and preceded by the Matins service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: at Great Vespers – extracts from Exodus 12:15-13:16; Leviticus 12 and Numbers 8; Isaiah 6:1-12, and 19:1,3-5,12,16,19-21; at Matins – Luke 2:25-32; at the Divine Liturgy –Hebrews 7:7-17 and Luke 2:22-40.

The Story of the Icons by Dr. Mary Paloumpis Hallick.  The Festal Menaion translated by Mother Mary (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1969) p. 60. The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Cathering Aslanoff, editor and Paul Meyendorff, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995). Festival Icons for the Christian Year by John Baggley (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000), pp. 40-47.

Hymns from the Presentation of Christ

Apolytikion (First Tone) Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in Your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.

Kontakion (First Tone) Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom you love, as only the loving one

presentation in the temple meaning

The Meeting of Christ in the Temple - Exploring the Feasts of the Orthodox Christian Church

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presentation in the temple meaning

presentation in the temple meaning

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The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple

presentation in the temple meaning

The law of God, given by Moses to the Jews, to insinuate both to us and to them, that by the sin of Adam man is conceived and born in sin, and obnoxious to his wrath, ordained that a woman, after childbirth, should continue for a certain time in a state which that law calls unclean; during which she was not to appear in public, nor presume to touch any thing consecrated to God. This term was of forty days upon the birth of a son, and the time was double for a daughter: on the expiration of which, the mother was to bring to the door of the tabernacle, or temple, a lamb of a year old. and a young pigeon or turtle-dove. The lamb was for a holocaust, or burnt-offering, in acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God, and in thanksgiving for her own happy delivery; the pigeon or turtle-dove was for a sin-offering. These being sacrificed to Almighty God by the priest, the woman was cleansed of the legal impurity, and reinstated in her former privileges.

A young pigeon, or turtle-dove, by way of a sin-offering, was required of all, whether rich or poor: but whereas the charge of a lamb might be too burdensome on persons of narrow circumstances, in that case, nothing more was required, then two pigeons, or two turtle-doves, one for a burnt, the other for a sin-offering.

Our Saviour having been conceived by the Holy Ghost, and his blessed Mother remaining always a spotless virgin, it is most evident from the terms of the law, that she was, in reality, under no obligation to it, nor within the intent of it. She was, however, within the letter of the law, in the eye of the world, who were as yet strangers to her miraculous conception. And her humility making her perfectly resigned, and even desirous to conceal her privilege and dignity, she submitted with great punctuality and exactness to every humbling circumstance which the law required. Pride indeed proclaims its own advantages, and seeks honors not its due; but the humble find their delight in obscurity and abasement, they shun all distinction and esteem which they clearly see their own nothingness and baseness to be most unworthy of: they give all glory to God alone, to whom it is due. Devotion also and zeal to honor God by every observance prescribed by his law, prompted Mary to perform this act of religion, though evidently exempt from the precept. Being poor herself; she made the offering appointed for the poor: accordingly is this part of the law mentioned by St. Luke, as best agreeing with the meanness of her worldly condition. But her offering, however mean in itself, was made with a perfect heart, which is what God chiefly regards in all that is offered to him. The King of Glory would appear everywhere in the robes of poverty, to point out to us the advantages of a suffering and lowly state, and to repress our pride, by which, though really poor and mean in the eyes of God, we covet to appear rich, and, though sinners, would be deemed innocents and saints.

A second great mystery is honored this day, regarding more immediately the person of our Redeemer, viz. his presentation in the temple. Besides the law which obliged the mother to purify herself, there was another which ordered that the first-born son should be offered to God: and in these two laws were included several others, as, that the child, after its presentation, should be ransomed with a certain sum of money, and peculiar sacrifices offered on the occasion.

Mary complies exactly with all these ordinances. She obeys not only in the essential points of the law, as in presenting herself to be purified, and in her offering her first-born, but has strict regard to all the circumstances. She remains forty days at home, she denies herself all this time the liberty of. entering the temple, she partakes not of things sacred, though the living temple of the God of Israel; and on the day of her purification, she walks several miles to Jerusalem, with the world's Redeemer in her arms. She waits for the priest at the gate of the temple, makes her offerings of thanksgiving and expiation, presents her divine Son by the hands of the priest to his eternal Father, with the most profound humility, adoration, and thanksgiving. She then redeems him with five shekels, as the law appoints, and receives him back again as a depositum in her special care, till the Father shall again demand him for the full accomplishment of man's redemption. It is clear that Christ was not comprehended in the law; "The king's son, to whom the inheritance of the crown belongs, is exempt from servitude:- much more Christ, who was the Redeemer both of our souls and bodies, was not subject to any law by which he was to be himself redeemed," as St. Hilary observes. But he would set an example of humility, obedience, and devotion: and would renew, in a solemn and public manner, and in the temple, the oblation of himself to his Father for the accomplishment of his will, and the redemption of man, which he had made privately in the first moment of his Incarnation. With what sentiments did the divine Infant offer himself to his Father at the same time! the greatest homage of his honour and glory the Father could receive, and a sacrifice of satisfaction adequate to the injuries done to the Godhead by our sins, and sufficient to ransom our souls from everlasting death! With what cheerfulness and charity did he offer himself to all his torments! to be whipped, crowned with thorns, and ignominiously put to death for us!

Let every Christian learn hence to offer himself to God with this divine victim, through which he may be accepted by the Father; let him devote himself with all his senses and faculties to his service. If sloth, or any other vice, has made us neglectful of this essential duty, we must bewail past omissions, and make a solemn and serious consecration of ourselves this day to the divine majesty with the greater fervor, crying out with St. Austin, in compunction of heart: "Too late have I known thee, too late have I begun to love thee, O beauty more ancient than the world!" But our sacrifice, if we desire it may be accepted, must not be lame and imperfect. It would be an insult to offer to God, in union with his Christ, a divided heart, or a heart infected with wilful sin. It must therefore first be cleansed by tears of sincere compunction: its affections must be crucified to the world by perfect mortification. Our offering must be sincere and fervent, without reserve, allowing no quarter to any of our vicious passions and inclinations, and no division in any of our affections. It must also be universal; to suffer and to do all for the divine honor. If we give our hearts to Christ in this manner, we shall receive him with his graces and benedictions. He would be presented in the temple by the hands of his mother: let us accordingly make the offering of our souls through Mary and beg his graces through the same channel.

The ceremony of this day was closed by a third mystery, the. meeting in the temple of the holy persons, Simeon and Anne, with Jesus and his parents, from which this festival was anciently called by the Greeks Hypante, the meeting. Holy Simeon, on that occasion, received into his arms the object of all his desires and sighs, and praised God in raptures of devotion for being blessed with the happiness of beholding the so much longed-for Messias. He foretold to Mary her martyrdom of sorrow; and that Jesus brought redemption to those who would accept of it on the terms it was offered them; but a heavy judgment on all infidels who should obstinately reject it, and on Christians also whose lives were a contradiction to his holy maxims and example. Mary, hearing this terrible prediction, did not answer one word, felt no agitation of mind from the present, no dread for the future; but courageously and sweetly committed all to God's holy will. Anne also, the prophetess, who, in her widowhood, served God with great fervor, had the happiness to acknowledge and adore in this great mystery the world's Redeemer. Amidst the crowd of priests and people, the Saviour of the world is known only by Simeon and Anne. Even when he disputed with the doctors, and when he wrought the most stupendous miracles, the learned, the wise, and the princes did not know him. Yet here, while a weak, speechless child, carried in the arms of his poor mother, he is acknowledged and adored by Simeon and Anne. He could not hide himself from those who sought him with fervor, humility, and ardent love. Unless we seek him in these dispositions, he will not manifest himself, nor communicate his graces to us. Simeon, having beheld his Saviour in the flesh, desired no longer to see the light of this world, nor any creatures on earth If we truly love God, our distance from him must be a continual pain: and we must sigh after that desired moment which will free us from the danger of ever losing him by sin, and will put us in possession of Him who is the joy of the blessed, and the infinite treasure of heaven. Let us never cease to pray that he purify our hearts from all earthly dross, and draw them to himself: that he heal, satiate, and inflame our souls, as he only came upon earth to kindle in all hearts the fire of his love.

presentation in the temple meaning

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  • Presentation of Our Lord


presentation of jesus in the temple

HOMILY 2 February 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today’s F east of Jesus’ Presentation at the temple 40 days after his birth places before our eyes a special moment in the life of the Holy Family:  Mary and Joseph, in accordance with Mosaic law, took the tiny Jesus to the temple of Jerusalem to offer him to the Lord (cf.  Lk  2: 22). Simeon and Anna, inspired by God, recognized that Child as the long-awaited Messiah and prophesied about him . We are in the presence of a mystery, both simple and solemn, in which Holy Church celebrates Christ, the Anointed One of the Father, the firstborn of the new humanity.

The evocative candlelight procession at the beginning of our celebration has made us relive the majestic entrance, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, of the One who is “the King of glory”, “the Lord, mighty in battle” ( Ps  24[23]: 7, 8). But who is the powerful God who enters the temple? It is a Child; it is the Infant Jesus in the arms of his Mother, the Virgin Mary. The Holy Family was complying with what the Law prescribed:  the purification of the mother, the offering of the firstborn child to God and his redemption through a sacrifice.

In the First Reading the Liturgy speaks of the oracle of the Prophet Malachi:  “The Lord… will suddenly come to his temple” ( Mal  3: 1). These words communicated the full intensity of the desire that had given life to the expectation of the Jewish People down the centuries. “The angel of the Covenant” at last entered his house and submitted to the Law:  he came to Jerusalem to enter God’s house in an attitude of obedience.

The meaning of this act acquires a broader perspective in the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews, proclaimed as the Second Reading today. Christ, the mediator who unites God and man , abolishing distances, eliminating every division and tearing down every wall of separation, is presented to us here.

Christ comes as a new “merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people” ( Heb  2: 17). Thus, we note that mediation with God no longer takes place in the holiness-separation of the ancient priesthood, but in liberating solidarity with human beings.

While yet a Child, he sets out on the path of obedience that he was to follow to the very end. The Letter to the Hebrews highlights this clearly when it says:  “In the days of his earthly life Jesus offered up prayers and supplications… to him who was able to save him from death…. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (cf.  Heb  5: 7-9).

The first person to be associated with Christ on the path of obedience, proven faith and shared suffering was his Mother, Mary . The Gospel text portrays her in the act of offering her Son:  an unconditional offering that involves her in the first person.

Mary is the Mother of the One who is “the glory of [his] people Israel” and a “ light for revelation to the Gentiles “, but also “ a sign that is spoken agains t” (cf.  Lk  2: 32, 34). And in her immaculate soul, she herself was to be pierced by the sword of sorrow, thus showing that her role in the history of salvation did not end in the mystery of the Incarnation but was completed in loving and sorrowful participation in the death and Resurrection of her Son.

Bringing her Son to Jerusalem, the Virgin Mother offered him to God as a true Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. She held him out to Simeon and Anna as the proclamation of redemption; she presented him to all as a light for a safe journey on the path of truth and love. The words that came to the lips of the elderly Simeon:  “My eyes have seen your salvation” ( Lk  2: 30), are echoed in the heart of the prophetess Anna. These good and devout people, enveloped in Christ’s light, were able to see in the Child Jesus “the consolation of Israel” ( Lk  2: 25). So it was that their expectation was transformed into a light that illuminates history.

Simeon was the bearer of an ancient hope and the Spirit of the Lord spoke to his heart:  for this reason he could contemplate the One whom numerous prophets and kings had desired to see:  Christ, light of revelation for the Gentiles.

He recognized that Child as the Saviour, but he foresaw in the Spirit that the destinies of humanity would be played out around him and that he would have to suffer deeply from those who rejected him; he proclaimed the identity and mission of the Messiah with words that form one of the hymns of the newborn Church, radiant with the full communitarian and eschatological exultation of the fulfilment of the expectation of salvation. The enthusiasm was so great that to live and to die were one and the same, and the “light” and “glory” became a universal revelation.

Anna is a “prophetess”, a wise and pious woman who interpreted the deep meaning of historical events and of God’s message concealed within them. Consequently, she could “ give thanks to God “ and “[speak of the Child] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem ” ( Lk  2: 38). Her long widowhood devoted to worship in the temple, fidelity to weekly fasting and participation in the expectation of those who yearned for the redemption of Israel culminated in her meeting with the Child Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, on this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord the Church is celebrating the Day of Consecrated Life. This is an appropriate occasion to praise the Lord and thank him for the precious gift represented by the consecrated life in its different forms; at the same time it is an incentive to encourage in all the People of God knowledge and esteem for those who are totally consecrated to God.

Indeed, just as Jesus’ life in his obedience and dedication to the Father is a living parable of the “God-with-us”, so the concrete dedication of consecrated persons to God and to their brethren becomes an eloquent sign for today’s world of the presence of God’s Kingdom.

Your way of living and working can vividly express full belonging to the one Lord; placing yourselves without reserve in the hands of Christ and of the Church is a strong and clear proclamation of God’s presence in a language understandable to our contemporaries . This is the first service that the consecrated life offers to the Church and to the world. Consecrated persons are like watchmen among the People of God who perceive and proclaim the new life already present in our history.

I now address you in a special way, dear brothers and sisters who have embraced the vocation of special consecration, to greet you with affection and thank you warmly for your presence. I extend a special greeting to Archbishop Franc Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and to his collaborators who are concelebrating with me at this Holy Mass.

May the Lord renew in you and in all consecrated people each day the joyful response to his freely given and faithful love. Dear brothers and sisters, like lighted candles, always and everywhere shine with the love of Christ, Light of the world. May Mary Most Holy, the consecrated Woman, help you to live to the full your special vocation and mission in the Church for the world’s salvation.

© Copyright 2006 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana EMPHASIS MINE

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI St. Peter’s Basilica Saturday, 2 February 2013

In his account of the infancy of Jesus St Luke emphasizes how faithful Mary and Joseph were to the Law of the Lord. They fulfilled with profound devotion all the prescriptions prescribed following the birth of a firstborn male. Two of them were very ancient prescriptions: one concerns the mother and the other the newborn child. The woman was required to abstain from ritual practices for forty days, after which she was to offer a double sacrifice: a lamb as a burnt offering and a turtle-dove as a sin offering; but if she were poor, she could offer a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons (cf. Lev 12:1-8).

St Luke explained that Mary and Joseph offer the sacrifice of the poor (cf. 2:24) in order to emphasize that Jesus was born into a family of simple people, lowly but of steadfast faith: a family that belonged to the poor of Israel who form the true People of God. For the first-born male who, according to Mosaic Law, was set apart for God, redemption was prescribed instead, established as an offering of five shekels to be paid to a priest in any place . This was in everlasting memory of the fact that in the time of Herod God saved the firstborn of the Jews (cf. Ex 13:11-16).

It is important to note that these two acts — the purification of the mother and the redemption of the son — did not require a visit to the Temple. However, Mary and Joseph wished to fulfil all the prescriptions in Jerusalem, and St Luke shows us how the entire scene converges on the Temple and thus focuses on Jesus who enters it. And it is here, precisely through the prescriptions of the Law, that the principal event is transformed, namely, it becomes the “presentation” of Jesus in the Temple of God, which means the act of offering the Son of the Most High to the Father who sent him (cf. Lk 1:32, 35).

The Evangelist’s account is confirmed by the words of the Prophet Malachi which we heard at the beginning of the First Reading: “Behold”, says the Lord, “I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming… he will purify the sons of Levi…. Then the offering… will be pleasing to the Lord” (3:1, 3, 4).

These words clearly make no mention of a child and yet they are fulfilled in Jesus because, thanks to the faith of his parents, he was taken to the Temple “immediately”; and in the act of his “presentation”, that is, the “offering” of him in person to God the Father, the themes of sacrifice and of the priesthood clearly transpire, as in the passage from the prophet. The Child Jesus, who is immediately presented in the Temple, is the same person who, as an adult, would purify the Temple (cf. Jn 2:13-22; Mk 11:15, 19ff). Above all he would make himself the sacrifice and the High Priest of the new Covenant.

This is also the perspective of the Letter to the Hebrews, a passage of which was proclaimed in the Second Reading, to strengthen the theme of the new priesthood: a priesthood — inaugurated by Jesus — which is existential : “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted ” (Heb 2:18). So it is that we also discover the topic of suffering, very pronounced in the Gospel passage in which Simeon imparts his prophecy concerning both the Child and the Mother: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and, [to Mary], a sword will pierce through your own soul also)” (Lk 2:34-35).

The “salvation” that Jesus brought to his people, and which he embodies in himself, passed through the Cross, through the violent death that he was to vanquish and to transform with the sacrifice of his life through love. This sacrifice was already foretold in the act of the Presentation in the Temple , an act without any doubt motivated by the traditions of the old Covenant, but that was deeply enlivened by the fullness of faith and love, which correspond to the fullness of time, to the presence of God and of his Holy Spirit in Jesus. Indeed, the Spirit moved over the whole scene of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple and in particular over Simeon, but also over Anna .

The Spirit “Paraclete” brings consolation to Israel and motivates the steps and moves the hearts of those who await him. He is the Spirit who prompted the prophetic words of Simeon and Anna, words of blessing and praise of God, of faith in his Annointed One, of thanksgiving, for at last our eyes could see and our arms embrace “your salvation” (cf. 2:30).

“A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (2:32). With these words Simeon describes the Messiah of the Lord, at the end of his hymn of blessing. The topic of light, that reechoes the first and second songs of the Servant of the Lord in the Deutero-Isaiah (cf. Is 42:6; 49:6), is vividly present in this liturgy. It was in fact opened by an evocative procession, in which the Superiors and General Superiors of the Institutes of consecrated life represented here took part and carried lit candles. This sign, specific to the liturgical tradition of this Feast, is deeply expressive. It shows the beauty and value of the consecrated life as a reflection of Christ’s light; a sign that recalls Mary’s entry into the Temple. The Virgin Mary, the Consecrated Woman par excellence, carried in her arms the Light himself, the Incarnate Word who came to dispel the darkness of the world with God’s love.

Dear consecrated brothers and sisters, you were all represented in that symbolic pilgrimage, which in the Year of Faith expresses even better your gathering together in the Church to be strengthened in faith and to renew the offering of yourselves to God. I address my most cordial greetings with affection to each one of you and to your Institutes and I thank you for coming. In the light of Christ, with the many charisms of contemplative and apostolic life, you cooperate in the Church’s life and mission in the world.

In this spirit of gratitude and communion I would like to address three invitations to you, so that you may fully enter through that “door of faith” which is always open to us (Apostolic Letter,  Porta Fidei , n. 1).

I invite you in the first place to nourish a faith that can illuminate your vocation. For this I urge you to treasure, as on an inner pilgrimage, the memory of the “first love” with which the Lord Jesus Christ warmed your hearts, not out of nostalgia but in order to feed that flame. And for this it is necessary to be with him, in the silence of adoration; and thereb y reawaken the wish to share — and the joy of sharing — in his life, his decisions, the obedience of faith, the blessedness of the poor and the radical nature of love. Starting ever anew from this encounter of love, you leave everything to be with him and like him, to put yourselves at the service of God and your brothers and sisters (cf. Apostolic Exhortation  Vita Consecrata ,  n. 1).

In the second place I invite you to have a faith that can recognize the wisdom of weakness. In the joys and afflictions of the present time, when the harshness and weight of the cross make themselves felt, do not doubt that the  kenosis  of Christ is already a paschal victory. Precisely in our limitations and weaknesses as human beings we are called to live conformation with Christ in an all-encompassing commitment which anticipates the eschatological perfection , to the extent that this is possible in time ( ibid ., n. 16). In a society of efficiency and success, your life, marked by the “humility” and frailty of the lowly, of empathy with those who have no voice, becomes an evangelical sign of contradiction.

Lastly, I invite you to renew the faith that makes you pilgrims bound for the future. By its nature the consecrated life is a pilgrimage of the spirit in quest of a Face that is sometimes revealed and sometimes veiled: “ Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram ” (Ps 27[26]:8). May this be the constant yearning of your heart, the fundamental criterion that guides you on your journey, both in small daily steps and in the most important decisions.

Do not join the ranks of the prophets of doom who proclaim the end or meaninglessness of the consecrated life in the Church in our day; rather, clothe yourselves in Jesus Christ and put on the armour of light — as St Paul urged (cf. Rom 13:11-14) — keeping awake and watchful. St Chromatius of Aquileia wrote: “Distance this peril from us so that we are never overcome by the heavy slumber of infidelity. Rather may he grant us his grace and his mercy, that we may watch, ever faithful to him. In fact our fidelity can watch in Christ ( Sermon  32, 4).

Dear brothers and sisters, the joy of consecrated life necessarily passes through participation in the cross of Christ. This is how it ways for Mary Most Holy. Hers is the suffering of the heart that is one with the Heart of the Son of God, pierced by love. From this wound God’s light flows and also from the suffering, sacrifice and self-giving of consecrated people who live through their love for God and for others, that shines the very light that evangelizes nations. On this feast I express in a special way to you, consecrated people, the hope that your lives may always have the flavour of evangelical  parresia , so that in you the Good News may be lived, witnessed to, and proclaimed and may shine out as a word of truth (cf. Apostolic Letter  Porta Fidei ,  n. 6). Amen.

© Copyright 2013 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Source: Emphasis mine.

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presentation in the temple meaning

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What’s Happening at the Presentation of the Lord?

Forty days after his birth, Christ was presented at the Temple. Why?

Ambrogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348), “The Presentation”

Feb. 2 is the Feast of the the Presentation of the Lord.

We read about the presentation of the Lord in Luke Chapter 2, but the text can be a little mysterious.

What is actually happening there?

Some claim that Luke himself didn't know...

What Luke Says

Here is what Luke (2:22-24) actually says about the event:

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 that 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.’

He then records the encounters with Simeon and Anna the prophetess, but at the moment our focus is what Luke refers to as “their purification.”

What is he talking about?

The Purification of the Mother

The first thing to note is that Luke is not talking about the time of Jesus' circumcision. That occurred on the eighth day after his birth . Luke has already talked about that and is now referring to a later time.

Specifically, he's talking about the 40th day after Christ's birth.

We know that because of he quotes from Leviticus 12:8 (“a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons”), which refers to the purification ritual that a Jewish mother needed to perform to become ritually clean again after childbirth.

In the case of a boy, this was on the 40th day after childbirth (which is why this feast is on Feb. 2 — 40 days after Christmas, counting Dec. 25 as the first day).

In the case of a girl child, the purification was later.

This leads to a question ...

Why “Their” Purification?

Leviticus only mentions the purification of the mother, not anybody else. So why does Luke refer to the time of “their” purification?

Some have thought Luke was fuzzy on how all this was supposed to work.

That seems unlikely to me. Luke may have been a Gentile Christian, but he was living amidst numerous Jewish Christians, and in keeping with his habit of investigating things thoroughly, he would have been able to find out precisely how these things worked.

I think another explanation is more likely, and there are several possible ones.

One is that Luke is just speaking in a general way. The rite of purification was something that the whole family was present for. They all made the journey to the temple together, and so it was in some sense “their” effort, even if it was Mary in particular who was being ritually purified.

If a modern family goes to a restaurant to celebrate the birthday of one of it’s members, it is in one sense “their” party, even if in another sense it is the party of the one having the birthday.

In the same way, if the whole family goes to the temple for a purification, Luke can speak of it as “their” purification, even if they aren’t all being purified.

A Poor But Obedient Family

There are a couple more things to note about Mary’s purification.

The first is that the offering she made indicates that the Holy Family was poor. The ordinary offering was a lamb and a dove, but in cases where a family was too poor for that, two doves were used instead.

Despite its noble lineage, belonging to the line of David, Joseph’s family had fallen on hard times and was among the poor.

They were still obedient to what the Law of Moses required, though. This is the reason why Mary offers the second dove as “a sin offering” (see Leviticus 12:6), though she herself was immaculate.

This act does not indicate that she was a sinner any more than Jesus' circumcision, baptism, or participation in other sacrificial rites indicates that he was a sinner.

And there is more happening here ...

The Redemption of the Firstborn

Luke also quotes Exodus 13:2, which deals with the redemption of firstborn males.

The idea behind this ritual was that every male firstborn — whether human or animal — is holy to God, the same way that the firstfruits of a crop were holy to God.

Consequently, they had to either be given to God in sacrifice or redeemed — bought back from him.

Since human sacrifice was illegal and immoral, all firstborn boys had to be redeemed, which was done by their father paying a priest five shekels.

Luke Confused Again?

Again, people accuse Luke of being confused about this. It is argued that the redemption of the firstborn didn't take place at the Temple, and so there was no reason for the Holy Family to bring Jesus there.

Again, the criticism is misplaced.

While it may have been possible for a boy to be redeemed anywhere, it was natural for this to be done at the temple, and we know — in fact — that there was a tradition of doing so.

We read about that in Nehemiah 10:35-36, where the people took an oath, saying:

We obligate ourselves ... to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, as it is written in the law.

No Mention of Redemption?

Interestingly, Luke does not mention Joseph paying the five shekels to a priest. Why not?

It could be that he simply takes this act for granted, just as he doesn't go into the details of the rite of Mary’s purification. He has cited the Old Testament passages referring to these rites, and he takes that as sufficient indication they were performed.

But some have thought there may be a deeper significance to his failing to mention Jesus being redeemed.

Why might that be?

Still Consecrated

The obvious answer would be that Jesus was considered as still consecrated to the Lord.

Two reasons suggest themselves. First, as the Jewish Encyclopedia notes :

Not only priests and Levites, but also Israelites whose wives are the daughters of priests or Levites, need not redeem their firstborn . 

Joseph was the husband of Mary, and Mary was a relative of Elizabeth, who was “of the daughters of Aaron” (Luke 1:5), so perhaps Mary's lineage didn't require her to have her Son redeemed.

In that case, he was presented at the Temple in acknowledgement of his consecration to God.

Or, if the redemption was done, Luke may meant to suggest, on a literary level, that Jesus remained totally consecrated to God.

Benedict XVI comments:

Evidently Luke intends to say that instead of being ‘redeemed’ and restored to his parents, this child was personally handed over to God in the Temple, given over completely to God. ... Luke has nothing to say regarding the act of 'redemption' prescribed by the law. In its place we find the exact opposite: the child is handed over to God, and from now on belongs to him completely. (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives: 3)

This article originally appeared Feb. 2, 2014, at the Register.

  • presentation

Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin Jimmy was born in Texas and grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth . Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine , and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”

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    Here is what Luke (2:22-24) actually says about the event: 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 ...