Welcome back, Barbara! I so enjoyed yesterday’s post. If you will all permit me, I’d like to add something to it – something I had never noticed before in the account of the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple – that is, until yesterday.
Most of us know this story from the gospel account in the second chapter of Luke:
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,” 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. (Lk 2:22-24)
This passage refers back to the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. Yesterday, for the first time, I turned to Leviticus and read the prescription of the Law.
According to Mosaic Law, a woman who had given birth to a male child was considered unclean for seven days. After that “…she shall spend thirty-three days more in becoming purified of her blood; she shall not touch anything sacred nor enter the sanctuary till the days of her purification are fulfilled.” (Lev 12:4) “When the days of her purification…are fulfilled, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the meeting tent a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering.” (Lev 12:6)
We know that Mary and Joseph were poor and therefore, according to the Law, could make a poor man’s offering. “If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves or two pigeons, the one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering.” (Lev 12:8)
So here’s the thing that jumped out at me: They were supposed to bring a lamb. They were poor, so they didn’t. But, indeed, they did bring a lamb. They brought THE lamb – the unblemished lamb of God, Jesus, who would be the holocaust offering – the greatest sacrificial offering completely consumed and given for the glory of God – atoning for our sin. That little baby would be the greatest offering, but it was not yet time for his sacrifice.
He was, however, present at the poor man’s offering, as He is today. We are the poor man, giving our humble offerings of bread and wine to the priest on the altar, and the pure Lamb is poured out, given, and consumed again and again, atoning for our sin on the altar in each Holy Mass celebrated every moment of every day throughout the world!
Let us unite ourselves with Joseph and Mary at the Presentation, poor as we are, in thanksgiving for this indescribable gift!
May God bless you and keep you, Anne