Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Purification of the Virgin and The Presentation of Our Lord

MS. Don. b. 5
Noted Missal, Use of Sarum, in Latin: 'The Buckland Missal'
England; 14th century, c. 1370-80(?)
fol. 251r (detail)
Purification of the Virgin (2 Feb.).
Initial 'S'(uscepimus)
The Bodelian Library, Oxford

In medieval art, the Purification of the Virgin, when the Virgin celebrated her ritual purification after giving birth by offering a sacrifice, was often conflated with the Presentation of Christ to the Temple, because the two events would have occurred at about the same time.

Pope Benedict XVI said on 2 February 2006 at a Mass at the Vatican on the day of The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

"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. ...

"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....

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 against" (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."