This is the fourth part of a series that will follow the biblical story of Mary throughout May. To honor her during her month, we are diving deeper into eight key mysteries of the Rosary offering reflections on the Blessed Mother’s role through the Gospels and New Testament. Need to catch up? You can find the other parts of the series here.
In the fourth Joyful Mystery we see how Mary is a beautiful example of faithfulness. In the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, we see her faithfully fulfilling all the necessary steps of a Jewish woman after giving birth to her first born son. The Law of Moses prescribed that the firstborn male needed to be redeemed by a sacrifice. This harkened to the time of the first Passover, when the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites who had blood from a sacrificed lamb over their doorways. From the time of Moses onward, the tradition of redeeming the firstborn son continued as a perpetual reminder of the saving grace of God. How fitting that Mary and Joseph brought God the Deliverer of Israel to the Temple to fulfill all righteousness.
Just as later Jesus would be baptized by John in the Jordan, though he needed no salvation, Jesus was redeemed in the Temple as the first born son. Mary’s faithfulness to obey God’s command did not go unnoticed by Simeon and Anna who were waiting for Mary to bring Jesus to the Temple. Obviously they knew the Temple would be the first stop for the Messiah to appear on his mission to redeem the world. Perhaps it was with great anticipation Mary entered the Temple, expecting a sign of confirmation from God during this significant ritual. She was met by two prophets, who recognized the gift she brought to the Temple and ultimately brought to the world.
But this sign would also be mingled with grief. St. John Paul II reflected on the significance of Simeon’s prophecy to Mary that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also…”:
Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.
— St. John Paul II, Redemptioris Mater, 16
As we go to Mass to receive this amazing gift that has been given to us through the hands of Mary and the prophets, let us also go in anticipation of what we can receive through the reading of the word, through the prayers and through the miracle of the Eucharist.
Do we present our souls to the Eucharist with the same reverence that Mary presented Jesus in the Temple?
Painting by Luca Giordano
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