two-visits-to-the-temple

Carlos Caso-Rosendi

This is the sixth of a series of nine articles about the Immaculate Conception and other related themes that will be published daily from December 1 through 9.

After the child is born and Joseph registers with the census authorities, the Holy family remained in Bethlehem. To fulfill the Law of Moses, Jesus had to be circumcised. The Holy family traveled the short distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. There they presented a small offer for the purification ceremony. By their modest offer of two small birds we can tell they were poor.

In the Temple they met Simeon, a holy man who was expecting the Messiah and the redemption of Israel. Simeon had been informed in a vision that he would not die without seeing the Messiah. Many years later Jesus would pick another Simeon (Hebr. Shimon meaning “he has heard”) to lead his apostles. Remarkably that other Simeon was also told supernaturally that Jesus was the Messiah.

[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:15-16

It is also remarkable that both men “heard of” who Jesus really was, Simeon at the Temple was the first to receive that revelation and Simon Peter at Caesarea was the last to receive that divine confirmation before Jesus’ death at Calvary.

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 who first 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 turtle-doves, or two young pigeons”. Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the Temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.” – Luke 2: 21-32.

Now Mary and also Joseph knew that God had plans for that baby trusted to their care. One can imagine their hearts filled with amazement and wondering about Jesus’ future. Simeon then blessed them. Moved by the Spirit the holy man told them the trials and sufferings that were ahead for all of them but mostly for Mary. This is the first time we hear about Mary’s mission as the Mater Dolorosa. She will have to prepare herself for great sufferings, represented in Simeon’s prophecy as a sword that will pierce her heart. One can understand from Simeon’s oracle that Jesus was going to experience the opposition and pains that every great prophet of Israel had to go through. Perhaps the time of Passover was close (see the previous article Tidings of Great Joy) where a lamb served with bitter herbs (maror) had to be consumed by each family group. A remarkable coincidence ties the name of Mary (Meriem) to the word for bitter herbs.[1] Both words share the same semantic root.

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2: 33-35.

Then the Holy Family meets the prophetess Anna. Who became a widow at her seventh year of marriage and was not eighty-four years old. Anna lived without her husband seventy-seven years, including the years of her youth. There is something in Anna’s life that communicated the yearning of Israel to live again with her rightful owner, the blessed Hashem, the God Almighty who chose them to be His people. Here we see God’s sign presented to Anna as a reward of her patience and long suffering. She gets to see the Divine Groom that one day will redeem the nation from its desolation (see Zephaniah 3:14, 17; Genesis 30:22-24)

Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon. A saintly man and his young wife consecrated to God, and two elderly persons also totally dedicated to the service of God in the Temple. Four holy souls surround this baby in the day of his being welcomed into the family of Israel.

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2: 36-38

The time came to return to Nazareth. Imagine the light and shadows in Mary’s heart, keeping for many years the certain knowledge that a season of pain and suffering lies between the peaceful happiness of her modest home and the final glorious destiny of her Child. The sword slowly begins to pierce her heart.

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Luke 2:39-40.

Then the time comes for the Passover, the last before Jesus Bar Mitzvah when he will officially be received in the nation as a “son of the commandment” a keeper of the Torah, the Law of Moses.

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Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:41-52.

The whole group of families of Nazareth traveled together back home after the celebration of the Passover in Jerusalem. Notice the timing that coincides with the death and resurrection that was going to happen many years later at a different, much more bitter Passover in Jerusalem. The group leaves Jesus behind and the child has to wait for them in the company of the great teachers of the Law. Those three days in the company of the wisest men of Israel is the introduction of the Messiah to the elders of Israel. They do no know who Jesus really is but they are amazed at the precocious wisdom of the Galilean lad. They keep him in the Temple until his parents come back to get him, three days later. That is a harbinger of the three days after Calvary. Mary and Joseph do not understand Jesus’ answer, the divine nature of Jesus as God the Son has not been revealed to them yet. But the Immaculate Heart keeps collecting those memories that will instruct the Church for ages to come.

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On December 8 we are going to celebrate the day of the Immaculate Conception. These days the world seems to be fraught with danger and unspeakable acts of violence and hate. Yet we present to the world the banner of Mary. Miraculous events will soon happen just like in biblical times. We should not be afraid and wait for the moment when Mary makes herself visible to all before her Son turns His attention to the affairs of this world.

A tiny part of my mission was to write this article so you are aware of Our Blessed Mother’s interest in you and every human being alive today. Let us join in praying the Novena of the Immaculate Conception, asking Our Mother for peace in the world, and the prompt return of Her Son, Jesus.

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[1] Maror (Hebrew: מָרוֹר‎ mārôr) or Marror, also known as Chazeret, refers to the bitter herbs eaten at the Passover Seder. The Torah commands “with bitter herbs they shall eat it.” (see Exodus 12:8).

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