ACCORDING TO THE MOSAIC LAW, a mother had to remain at home for forty days after the birth of a son. When Mary’s “days of purification” were over, she and Joseph took the Child to Jerusalem, to fulfill two prescriptions of the Mosaic Law. The mother was to offer a sacrifice of two turtledoves, one as a purification-offering, the other as a thanksgiving offering. And the first-born son had to be bought back from the Lord for five shekels.
When the Holy Family had carried out these prescriptions of the Law, Simeon, a just, God-fearing man, approached them. The Holy Spirit had promised him that he should not die before seeing the Messiah, and drew him this day into the temple. He took into his arms the Child he knew to be the Messiah and uttered a canticle of thanksgiving: “Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and a glory for Thy people Israel.”
Mary and Joseph marveled at the old man’s words and at the·manifestations God joined to the mysteries of the holy in fancy. Simeon called down the blessings of heaven on the pair, and knowing that men could not be neutral toward Christ, said to Mary, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
The aged Simeon was followed by Anna, a prophetess. Her husband had died seven years after their marriage, and since that time she had passed her days in the service of the Lord in the temple. Meeting the Holy Family, she began to praise the Lord and spoke of the Child to all who were awaiting His coming.
Having fulfilled the requirements of the law of purification, Mary and Joseph returned with the Child Jesus to Bethlehem, where the Holy Family had been living since the Nativity.
Meditation: Simeon was “just and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel.” Anna was a woman who “never left the temple, with fastings and prayers worshiping night and day.” Others were more worldly, more “successful,” more important, better known. These two were simple, humble, unpretentious. But they, rather than the high priest and the officials, had the privilege of welcoming Christ. Whom do we imitate, the simple and humble Simeon and Anna, or the more worldly, the more important?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 9-10. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.