There are exactly forty days between the Third Joyful Mystery and the Fourth. This has been done on purpose in order to observe Holy Mother Church's liturgical calendar of the real time period of Christmastide from the Nativity to the Presentation for the Blessed Mother, by Jewish Law, had to wait forty days before presenting herself in the Temple. There, accompanied by her earthly spouse Saint Joseph who offered a tithe of two turtle doves as redemption for buying back their first-born, she presented her new-born Son and submitted herself for the Jewish custom of being purified in man's eyes after child birth. This was not necessary in God's eyes for she was the purest creature He ever created, but just as her Divine Son submitted to the Hebrew rituals, so also did she. It was, in a sense, the precursor to the Sacrament of Penance for humbling oneself and asking to be purified is the essence of receiving Sanctifying Grace. Also, though Jesus would be obedient and loving son for 30 of His next 33 years, Mary was presenting Him to the Jews as the chosen Messiah, something clearly understood by Simeon and the prophetess Anna. The Israelites would not know until His public ministry began 30 years later, and though He would be rejected and put to death, 2000 years later His grace and promises still hold while all temporal things fade away.
Let us now begin our meditation on the Fourth Joyful Mystery – The Presentation.
"And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Him to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord" (Luke 2: 22).
It always has been good to obey the laws of those Jesus put in our charge - The Apostles and their successors as well as the civil laws of those whom God has given the authority to do so as long as those laws do not contradict God’s laws. Was it Saint Thomas More who said "I die the Kings loyal servant but God’s first" just before he died? I believe Saint Peter said something similar in the book of Acts. “We obey God rather than men”. When man’s laws are contrary to the law of God (the Eternal Law) we must obey God rather than man.
As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord" (Luke 2:23)
Now I have the opportunity to focus on how the term "firstborn" was relevant when it came to consecrating your “firstborn” to the Lord in the Old Covenant. We will be looking at the term “firstborn” in the light of our Lady's perpetual virginity because in typical fashion, Christian heretics first come to a false conclusion that contradicts what was handed on by the Apostles and then scramble to find any and all verses that they feel “proves their point” or that they can twist and misconstrue in order to “prove that point”. Their “point” in this instance would be, “Jesus is Mary’s firstborn so she must have had other children.” It is interesting to note that sometimes the very same people teach that Jesus was a firstborn with others to follow also teach (depending on the conversation) that Jesus had older brothers – in such instances it seems these people are more concerned with “proving” Catholicism false than with knowing truth.
I'll give a brief point of my own on the ludicrousness of “first-born” absolutely having to mean that others came after. And this is a commonsensical point. If in the time of Our Lord the term "first born" or "firstborn male" could only mean that there had to be others born afterward or other males had to be born afterwards then it would be quite difficult for the parents to wait, perhaps decades, until they realized that they would have no more children or sons. Can you imagine the following scenario? "We can't consecrate him to the Lord yet, we haven't had another child." “But Abraham, Isaac is 60 years old and I seriously doubt that we will have another child!" Or in the case of the "firstborn male" only being considered a firstborn male if another male was born afterward. Suppose the couple’s first child was a male followed by twenty consecutive females. Could you imagine the husband saying, "I promise the next one will be a boy, we can consecrate our firstborn male to the Lord then."
Now let us hear the traditional apologia from the experts.
"…'til she brought forth her first born son." From these words Helvidius and other heretics most impiously inferred that the blessed Virgin Mary had other children besides Christ: but Saint Jerome shows, by diverse examples, that this expression of the Evangelist was a manner of speaking usual among the Hebrews, to denote by the word "until", only what is done, without any regard to the future. Thus it is said. Genesis 8:6-7, that "Noe sent forth a raven, which went forth and did not return 'til the waters were dried upon the earth." That is did not return anymore. Also Isaias 46:4, God says: "I am 'til you grow old." Who dare infer that God should THEN CEASE TO BE? Also in the first book of Machabees 5:54, "And they went up to Mount Sion with joy and gladness, and offered holocausts, because not one of them was slain 'til they had returned in peace." That is, not slain before or after they had returned. - God saith to His divine Son: "Sit on My right hand 'till I make Thy enemies Thy footstool." Shall He sit no longer after his enemies are subdued? Yea and for all eternity. Saint Jerome also proves by scripture examples, that an "only begotten" son, was also called firstborn, or "first begotten": because according to the law, the "firstborn" males were to be consecrated to God:" "Sanctify unto me", saith the Lord, "every firstborn that OPENETH the womb among the children of Israel," and c Exodus 13:2 (Douay Rheims commentary).
There has been a lot of scuttlebutt from Protestant sources that Mary had other children. That, in itself is another whole column to debunk such heresy. Consider that our Lord would not have had the need to give Mary to Saint John (whom is proven to be the Son of Zebedee in Scripture) from the cross had He genetic brothers to give her to. Not to mention the fact that had He genetic brothers, they would have had a right, by law, to impose the death penalty on Saint John, for taking as his own, one who more rightfully belonged to her genetic children. This calls to mind the saying I heard or read earlier that went something like "she was without child 'til the day she died". I am not a medical expert, but had she managed to get pregnant and have a child after she died, I would very much like an explanation on how it came about.
And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" (Luke 2:24)
It is interesting to notice how Jesus, as an infant babe, obeys the law even though He is Master of this law; even though He is Divine Law Itself.
Obedience. This has been a theme throughout the bible - the importance of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. Faith has been equated to obedience as Saint Paul talks about “the obedience of faith” in Romans and elsewhere.
The “obedience of faith” can be considered much the same as the word “city” and “Chicago” is understood in the phrase “the city of Chicago” – both “city” and “Chicago” refer to the same thing in that phrase; in this light reconsider the phrase “obedience of faith” and what this phrase could mean in relation to the word “obedience” and the word “faith”. Faith is more than just obedience. Yes? But obedience is a big part of faith. When Saint James says faith without works is dead, I suppose we could replace the word “works” with “obedience” without that verse losing much of its original intended meaning, for faith without obedience is just as dead as faith without works is it not? In fact, what are “works” in relation to faith other than the responses of obedience which are to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, be baptized, eat My Flesh and so on? Each of these “works” are acts of “obedience” to Christ are they not?
The Ever Virgin and most pure Mary, in her humility, also submits to the law of purification out of obedience.
In addition to “obedience” we also see the words “humility” and “submits” in the above sentence. These words are not so popular among women or anyone in our culture today. When Saint Paul says “women be submissive to your husbands” he is not saying women let your husbands beat you to a pulp if that is what your husband wishes to do. Some actually go to the extreme of claiming and perhaps believing this is what Saint Paul means. This would be contrary to his theology in that it would be disrespectful to your body, and to your dignity and most importantly it would be offensive to God to believe that beating you to a pulp is your husband’s right and to allow your husband to do such a thing to you. What Saint Paul is teaching in Ephesians is that marriage stems from authentic love. And true love wants what is best for the other. Not only that - true love is willing to sacrifice anything at all for the sake of the other. Jesus Christ and what He did for us would be a prime example a willing sacrifice motivated by true, authentic, selfless love that wants what is best for the other.
What is often over-looked about the verses that mention wives being submissive to their husbands is that the verses in this chapter go on to say that the husband is to be willing to lay down his life for his wife as Christ did for His Church. Taken at face value it would seem that if anyone had the better deal it would be the wife unless you would rather die than be submissive (though I don’t discount that possibility when considering the attitude of many feminists today).
Ah, but alas marriage is not about who gets the better deal. It is about total self-giving love and sacrifice for the love of the other out of love for God. (It is not about “mutual submissiveness” as the conciLIAR leaders teach – that would be ridiculous - as would be the mutual submissiveness between children and parents or Creator and creature, I mean what is the point of submissiveness if you are both submissive to each other, isn’t that self-defeating? Who submits when? “It’s your turn to be submissive today honey.” Besides, I believe it is safer to go with Saint Paul and the pre-Vatican II reliable Popes and their teachings on the sacred marriage bond rather than the contradictory post-conSILLYar heretical doubtful “popes” “teaching” on the subject or any subject for that matter.) When two people are 100% devoted to the other both want is best for the other but both do not have the final say, for that is a nonsensical impossibility. Isn't it great that we have such exemplary models for Christian marriage in Joseph and Mary? Their ideal must be our ideal.
"And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord" (Luke 2:26).
Simeon was evidently close to God. This was fitting in the historical perspective when considering the canticle he is about to utter.
It is interesting to note that Jesus (as well as John the Baptist) received their name from the Father publicly at circumcision as well as the fact that this is the first time that Jesus shed His blood.
"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 people: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people, Israel" (Luke 2: 29-32).
God always fulfills His word. His Word is Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. His Word is literally fulfilled in the Child that our Lady presents to Simeon. Can you imagine the genuine joy in Simeon - a man sincerely devoted to God for all His life - at this moment? This old man is a historical figure symbolic of the Old Covenant dying out and the New coming to fruition, much as Zechariah and Elizabeth were.
When considering this man’s life-long service and complete devotion to God I could not help but to think of Abraham, the father of the chosen people of the Old Covenant. For he had to wait many decades with an active and trusting faith before he was able to realize the tangible results of God’s promises.
God tells this man he is going to be the father of a nation and then tells him to sacrifice his ONLY son. Abraham must have wondered how on earth he was to be the father of many nations when he would no longer even have his (seed) only son. But he trusted our Lord completely as was proven by his willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac (though earlier in his journey of faith he did not so completely trust God’s promise that he would be the Father of many nations as evidenced by his trying to get a son through Hagar – a women who was not his wife).
Simeon trusted our Lord completely as well; as did our most Holy Queen in the most perfect of ways who, despite being betrothed to Joseph, never once spoke of her pregnancy to him but trusted completely that God would take care of things even though she knew she could be stoned to death for adultery. She trusted so much, that it took an Angel informing Joseph after he decided to put her away before Joseph understood why she was pregnant and how she got that way.
How much would Jesus have known as an infant? If you look at paintings of Him as an infant, His eyes look very wise like that of an adult. Jesus in His Divinity would have been aware that this was His temple which He was being presented in and that He would be the sacrifice, and yet in His humanity he possessed all the same traits as you and I save for being able or ever wanting to sin. He was sinless in all things.
From the moment of His conception Jesus was a willing sacrifice. Our Lord’s sacrifice was not only His death on the cross but His willing subjection to our human frailty for 33 years.
Does believing in Jesus mean accepting all of His teachings whole and entire while doing the will of His Father? Or does merely accepting Him in an emotional ceremony fulfill believing in Jesus and make you “saved”? Keeping in mind that the devil believes in Him (Mark 1:24) but lacks the charity to go with this belief. Is the work or act of Intellectual acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Savior all we need to do? Should we rip Matthew chapters 5-7 out of the Bible because Jesus did not really mean what He said about doing His will and keeping His commands? Was Jesus just joking about eternal damnation to those who do not do what He has commanded us to do?
Though I may be preaching to the choir - the answers to these questions are pretty clear to me as well. So if you truly believe and believe rightly, turn and strengthen your brethren in the faith. And if your brethren are convinced they do not need to be strengthened in the faith, have them prayerfully contemplate Hebrews 3:7-14 while invoking God's aid for the Wisdom to truly know and fulfill His will.
Would you agree that to the extent that we accept or reject our Lord’s Mother, and not only His Mother, but to a lesser extent also our neighbor (including our enemies) is the extent to which we accept or reject Jesus Himself? Would this include accepting those who are less (or more) fortunate than us, whether it is physically, emotionally, materially or otherwise? How can you claim to accept Jesus while at the same time reject His command to love thy enemies? How can you claim to accept Jesus and reject His Church - you know, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church he founded on Peter with the one with One Faith and One Baptism. Yeah, that Church. Are you a member of it? Why not? Because you would not be able to practice the prevention of babies? Because you would not be able to have sex outside of marriage? God knows what is best for you with an infinite more accuracy than that of your own. Accept Jesus whole and entire or don’t accept Him at all. Accept Jesus with ALL His Teachings, His Commands and His Church.
As a very wise man may have thought or said some time ago; “Useless is the toothbrush (at least in regards to its intended purpose) to one who doesn't brush his teeth.”
Saying you accept Jesus while simultaneously ignoring some of His teachings and rejecting His commands would be like buying a tooth brush to keep you warm at night or like buying a pair of pants and wearing them on your head. Why would you buy a pair of pants if you are not going to wear them properly? Because of your individuality? Because it is your (it’s God’s body – He is Lord of it) body and you can do what you want with it? Because of your right to wear them on whatever part of your body that you wish? Because it is too inconvenient to put them on the right way? Those who claim to have accepted Jesus are gloriously inconsistent when it comes to putting that claim into action and doing what He says to do and accepting all He says to accept including the Church that He built upon the “Kepha” (Petrus) - the Rock.
Saying you accept Jesus while rejecting His Church would be like person who claims to be a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers while living in Africa during the baseball season. What do you mean you are a member of the Dodgers? Why are you not with the team? What do you mean you accept Jesus? Why are you not with His Church?
If you have time please read Hebrews 4: 1-11 for encouragement in perseverance as being necessary for salvation and as discouraging the vain presumption of automatic Salvation common among modern “Christians” today as a vice against hope, and a hindrance against salvation or "entering the place of rest". So many are expecting to be "lifted up out of the trials and tribulations" to come. Protestants call it the "Rapture" and if their interpretation of what the "rapture" entails for them is correct, then why did Jesus ever say that if you want to be My disciple, you must carry your cross daily? Why would He say we would be persecuted in His name if He were going to just be snatched out of the world while still alive? It's the easy way out for Protestants to deny the price of Calvary and say Faith alone or Scripture alone will save them. None of us would have the opportunity to be saved were it not for the merits of Jesus on the Cross.
Accepting Jesus is great, but is not enough if you are not obedient to the One you have “accepted”. Like in Psalm 95, we are on a journey, towards, somewhere… and if we fail to persevere and hold fast to the truth, or to put it another way, if we harden our hearts, we might not end up where we presume to be headed. Like Mary this day, we must be purified. Christ knows we are susceptible to sin and therefore will not condemn us if we are truly sorry for our sin and seek forgiveness with the direct resolve to amend our lives. Did not our Lord say to the harlot, "Go thy way, and sin NO MORE!"? This supernatural medicine of the grace of forgiveness to assuredly put on the mantle of Sanctifying Grace comes only from the Sacraments, not from just lip service. We must walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
"Behold, this child is set for the ruin, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed" (Luke 2: 34-35).
Note in verse 34, Simeon says "the resurrection of many." Ring a bell? How about at the consecration of the wine - PRO MULTIS - "FOR MANY"? Why then do the conciLIARS insist on "For All"? Why indeed. More of the disobedience to God in proffering that man has a better idea.
In this passage of Luke above is one of the places where we get our theology on our Lady being co-redemptrix. There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. Yes indeed. But we all have the capacity of being co-mediator’s with Christ when we pray for one another or bring others to Christ as Mary does. For there is one Creator and that is God. But it cannot be denied that there are co-creators with God or should I say “pro-creators” - people who work with God to bring human life to this world in order to populate Heaven. My parents come to mind here. God set things up this way in the physical realm and more importantly He set things up this way in the spiritual realm giving us the great honor and privilege of being able to work with God to help bring eternal life to souls. Of course in the spiritual realm the closer you are to God the more effective your prayers and works will be. If you had Him in your womb and you nurtured Him with a mother’s milk and you heard and kept the word of God like no other than your mediation would be more effective than all others. If you were the mother of the Son and the daughter of the Father and the spouse of the Holy Ghost then all the better. Meditate just on that for a moment.
It must be understood that the “co” in co-redemtrix does NOT mean “equal to” in the Catholic theology. It couldn't mean “equal to” in this sense because that would make Mary equal to God which would be blasphemy and we would have to worship the Quartinity instead of the Trinity. “Co” comes from the Latin “cum” meaning with. So though she is the Co-Redemptrix par excellence in comparison to the rest of creation and she is Co-Redemptrix in a secondary and subordinate role in comparison to Christ, she is not divine and yet without her cooperation where would we be today? Her fiat made it possible for "many in Israel" and, through the Church He founded, many, many others to be eligible for eternal happiness only because of the merits earned by her Divine Son on the Cross in offering to the Father in reparation of our sins.
Some might say: But might the term “co-Redemptrix” do more harm than good by causing confusion about our Lady’s role rather than clarifying it? Not if we have a clear understanding of what "co" means in this definition and not if we understand that our Lady helped obtain the graces which Christ won for us through her cooperation with Christ in her willingness to suffer with her Son while He was obtaining those graces for us. It must be understood that Christ is the source of all grace and that this grace could not be obtained without Him. This grace could also have been obtained without our Lady's assistance but God did not will it so. God willed that Mary have the great privilege in sharing with her Son the attainment of Redemption for us all - for He wants mankind to be intimately involved in the redemption process.
And isn't this only fitting? For if it is God against Satan there is no contest. But if God allows man to defeat Satan with the help of God's grace there is a sort of Divine Justice and retribution involved. It was a man that put all mankind in the mess we find ourselves in and now it is man or more specifically “a woman” who is allowed to help get us out of this mess. This was prophesied in Genesis 3:15 and was partially fulfilled at the foot of the cross in time and will be ultimately be fulfilled (as many prophesies are partially fulfilled in a point of history and ultimately fulfilled at the end of time) at the end of time when the head of the Serpent is crushed and Satan is ultimately defeated once and for all. Think how humiliating it is for Satan to be defeated by a base physical creature - by a humble Jewess - again by the power of God but through her cooperation. Yes, it was a woman who allowed mankind to fall and it is a woman that helps bring mankind back into the good graces of God.
Hence we can understand the value of suffering when we see the vital role it played in our redemption and how our Lady’s suffering propelled her to Co-Redemptrix status. Speaking of suffering; are there any mothers out there? If you had a choice between dying or watching your Son die a gruesome bloody long death; which would you prefer? Our Lady would have preferred to be on that cross in His place if she could have done so. Merely the witnessing of the injustice would be agonizing in a particularly strong way for one free from sin because when you are completely untainted by any stain of sin the witnessing of injustices will pierce your heart more deeply than all of us who have been affected by sin. One completely free from sin is more sensitive to the effects of that sin. So the Blessed Virgin was profoundly affected interiorly whenever she witnessed any injustice, but having to witness the cruelty, lies, spitting and cursing along with all the agonizing pain to her Son whose bloody hands she had once held, whose maimed face she washed, whose pierced head she remembered kissing when He was a child was beyond bearable. Yet she bore it, willingly, because she knew it was the Father’s will.
When her Son was redeeming the world on the cross as the New Adam, she was there as the New Eve redeeming the world with Him in a secondary and subordinate way, untying the knot of disobedience from the first Adam and the first Eve. She had compassion for Him. Compassion comes from the Latin - to suffer with. She suffered with Him while He was on that cross. She was a co-sufferer and for that reason and others she was also a co-redeemer. God from the beginning has always wanted mankind intimately linked with salvation history and so Mary is.
The Blessed Virgin’s soul was pierced with a sword as she was watching her Son die on the Cross so that the thoughts of many would be revealed. Our Lady knows all the mental anguish we go through to the ultimate extant and how tempting it is for mankind to sin as we go through our trials, tribulations and persecutions. She knows the temptation (I have no idea if or how much our Lady was tempted to do any of the things I suggest here but I believe she knows how we feel when we see injustice or when we have been unjustly slighted) of not accepting God's will in her life - the temptation to hate those who persecute or kill the innocent; she knows the temptation to desire revenge rather than just retribution towards those who commit heinous crimes. She knows the temptation to desire “pay-back” toward those who have wronged us or ours rather than engaging in acts of loving mercy (authentic mercy – not the false mercy that puts society or souls in harms way) towards them for the sake of their conversion and as an act of penance for your own soul and the sins of others. A created human being was chosen to reveal the thoughts of many through her sufferings.
Can anyone recall what happened to the Holy Family between the time of the Prophecy of Simeon and the time they returned to Nazareth? We can see the answer in Matthew 2: 13-23 and the perfect obedience of Joseph and Mary to the will and warnings of God through the angel. I will speak of this obedience and our response to how God tests us in our life in a future installment. Also I will, in this series when we enter the Sorrowful Mysteries in Lent, show how the sword pierced Mary's heart as she co-suffered with her Divine Son.
I believe the Blessed Virgin reached her threshold for suffering during the carrying of the cross and the crucifixion as did Jesus in His Humanity, spilling every last drop of blood He had for us and undergoing SUCH mental anguish that He sweat drops of blood. The Church teaches that our Lady and our Lord through the unity of their suffering acquired the graces needed for our redemption during our Lord’s passion; Our Lord did so as the source and the summit of all grace; Our Lady did so in a secondary and subordinate manner. Please keep in mind that this privilege as mediatrix and co-redemptrix our Lady enjoys are roles she would not even have, had the opportunity to willingly embrace these privileges not been given her by our Lord and Saviour. The Blessed Virgin did not just happen to be at the right place at the right time at the Annunciation - it was God's will for her to be there - though she was free to accept or reject the will of God as we all are free to accept or reject His will through all the cognizant moments of our lives. The freedom God gives us to avoid His will or to even to purposely do evil is the same freedom that gives us the capacity to love.
As we meditate on the Mystery of the Presentation, let us thank God for giving us Mary. Thank you, Mary, for giving us God!!! Now let us go and do our part, cooperating with the will of God helping to make possible the salvation of other souls through our words, actions and fidelity to the will of God.