Feast of the Presentation of the Lord; A second Annunciation Lk 2:22-40

The feast of the Presentation stresses the Holy Family’s obedience to Torah. The Bible tells us that Joseph and Mary presented Jesus for circumcision and naming eight days after the Nativity. According to the Old Testament, after a woman gave birth she was ritually unclean (cf. Lev. 12:1-5). In order to be purified, a sacrifice was required (Lev. 12:6-8).  Hence Mary and Joseph now fulfil their next religious obligation, namely the ceremonial presentation of first born son (Exodus 13:11-16) at the Temple in Jerusalem.

By telling us that they went up to Jerusalem, Luke is actually depicting Mary and Joseph as Torah observant Jews. The Holy Family, therefore, is presented as the model of obedience to God’s Law. This also makes us wonder if Mary needed to be purified since she was the sinless one. Ritual impurity did not necessarily involve “sin”, though sin was a kind of impurity  

A woman was not a “sinner” because she had given birth. In fact, the first divine command in the Torah is “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Without giving a long explanation, we can simply say here that the purity laws were essentially “symbolic”. While Mary is Immaculate and remains miraculously a virgin even after the birth of Christ, she nevertheless presents herself for purification to fulfil the Law and avoid scandal.

So what does the presentation mean?

The word translated, “to present”, is paristēmi. As Pope Benedict observes in volume 3 of his work, Jesus of Nazareth, the term is specifically used for “presenting” a “sacrifice”. See, for example, Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present [paristēmi] your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” It seems that for Luke Jesus is in the temple as the sacrifice.

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