“Lord, now you let your servant go in peace. Your word has been fulfilled.” Luke 2:29
Every once in a blue moon, the 40th day after Christmas falls on a Sunday, and we all celebrate the feast of the Presentation together. It’s been 11 years since the last time. I was a transitional deacon then, in Silver Spring, Maryland. That was a winter when we had two blizzards in one week. There was a convent of nuns at the parish where I was living. I took it upon myself to shovel the walkway from their house to the church, so they could get to Mass. The snow was piled three feet deep. It took all day.
Why did the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph bring the baby Jesus to the Temple? Because the Law of the Old Covenant commanded that every firstborn son be consecrated to the Lord and redeemed by a sacrifice.
Why did the Law require this? Because the freedom of the nation of Israel rested on the death of the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt, in the days of Moses. The consecration of the firstborn, as the book of Exodus puts it,
will be like a sign on your hand and a band on your forehead that with a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt (13:16).
Day and night, St. Simeon kept this sign on his hand and this band on his forehead. He kept a perpetual vigil of faith.
The Lord our God, the mighty and strong, slow to anger, swift to bless—He liberated us, brought us out of nothingness itself. He gave us our land, flowing with milk and honey. He gave us this holy Temple on Abraham’s mountain.
He did it all for a reason, His reason. And now we await the fulfillment of His plan, the consummation of our nation’s task. It will come in God’s time; it will come at the right moment.
I may grow old and blind and weary. But I will wait on the Almighty hand. I will wait here at the very spot where Abraham trusted God. Abraham trusted to the point of his own firstborn’s death…
So whispered Simeon to himself. And then the Blessed Mother walked through the door, with the God of Abraham in her arms.
…After I finished high school, I got a job typing the reports of a company of local archaeologists.
The company specialized in pre-historic archaeology–that is, the study of artifacts produced by people who did not have writing.
In our area, you can discover a pre-historic artifact while you are out for a walk. There are still Algonquian arrowheads and potsherds lying on the surface of the earth.
Contrast this with archaeology in the Old City of Jerusalem. On Monday evening, we walked down four flights of steps from street level. We emerged into a cistern that was built to hold water for use in the Temple in the fifth century B.C.
There are books written about the building of that temple–they can be found in the Old Testament. My point is: In Jerusalem, archaelogists have dug and dug and dug, and they still have not gotten to the pre-historic level.
And here is some more perspective: In our day and age, since the beginning of the Digital/Organic Era (which began when Bill Gates’ net worth reached $1 trillion), “new” refers to something that came into being in the last half-nanosecond.
In Rome, there is a beautiful church called Chiesa Nuova, the “New Church.” It was completed in 1606.
In Jerusalem, the Nea, the “new” church in honor of Mary the Mother of God, has lay buried beneath the rubble of earthquake and Persian destruction for 1200 years.
Today is the day the Nea was dedicated in A.D. 543.
Our Lady was born in Jerusalem. She was among the girls who cared for the Temple paraphernalia.
The above is a mosaic map of Christian Jerusalem. It is not easy to read. The Cardo, or main street, runs left to right through the middle of the city. The huge ancient basilica of the Holy Sepulcher is below the main street, the Nea is above it, to the right. There was an annual procession between the two churches.
…I am sorry that I allowed the following “Bests” list to get as stale as five-year-old granola bars. It is retired. An exciting new edition is available behind the Bests tab above.
Every word in Sacred Scripture is precious. We do well to read the Scriptures as much as we can.
Forty days after Christ was born, our Lady and St. Joseph followed the prescription of Exodus 13:1-2: “The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites, both of man and beast, for it belongs to me.”