Presentation. Ritual. Custom. Aha!

The Circumcision and Naming of Jesus

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The Presentation in the Temple. 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. 
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
    in peace, according to your word,
 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and glory for your people Israel.”
 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.  And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:21-38


I looked it up – it is 40 days from birth to presentation.  A whole month of being a family.  I wonder about the ordinariness of that time.  Ritual purification, the daily routine of a young family with a new born.  Have they gone home?  They still had to deal with the enrollment/census.  Tired.  Stressed.  Worried.  Not just the worries of normal new parents,  but the parents of Emanuel.  The very responsibility that has been placed on their shoulders.  So out of norm and yet all of the details of life are set within a culture and context – people, places, practices, noise, smells.  The rituals are familiar and comforting – even if not appreciated.  They are the stable base upon what is going to be a very unstable situation

Then the day of presentation.  They have made the trip to Jerusalem.  It is time.  Law guided.  The Law providing a framework for acting.  A routine.  Expected.  Faithful.  Joseph buys the birds, the prescribed offering.  They enter the Temple.  A young Jewish couple. Probably others there as well.  Routine.  Prescribed.  Expected.  Cultural.  Ritual.  Everything is normal and then, everything stops.

Simeon, directed by the Holy Spirit comes in.  Recognition.  Promise fulfilled.  Holy.  Miraculous.  Jesus, this little infant, probably one of several.  The Priest is present.  He knows Simeon.  What is he thinking?  Just a crazy old man.

Mary and Joseph understand.  The miracle of the birth night, then a period of routine, now more miracle.  More outside the norm.  The man takes the child – this month old baby.  Something is holy in the moment.   Mary hands  him over to this stranger.  How Simeon’s face must of shone.  There is clearly the  mark of miracle in this moment.  Simeon – thanks God.  Promise fulfilled.  Take me Lord.  Thank you.  He tells Mary, this young mother that her son is special and that his time will not be one of peace, but contention.  The rise and fall of many.  He also tells her that she will pay the price.  That she will be pierced by a sword – so that souls might be revealed.  Does Mary think that this is a prediction of the death that she will endure.  Probably.

Then Anna joins in the exchange.  Old.  84 is old today, and ancient in that time.  Prophetess.  Seer.  Says this child is a redeemer.   The Redeemer.  Holy.  Special.  Gift.

Mary and Joseph with their baby – no, not just their baby but the world’s baby leave.  You can only imagine the discussion.  One of many they must have had.  What does this mean?  So much revealed, yet unanswered.  Special.  Emanuel.  Are we up to it?  One day at a time.  One revelation at a time.  Faithful.

One of the thoughts that occurs to me is something triggered by one of Father O’Brien’s comments.  I wrote it in the margins of the book.  God saves us IN the world in the details of our lives.  Jesus was born into a specific time and place and life-setting.  So are we.  So am I.  His family were devote Jews and he was raised within those cultural practicesI am sure that some of the Laws and how they were presented.  But you grew up in that cultural milieu, just as I do.

Not sure where that is heading, but it is a reassurance that following faith-rituals is OK.  They provide stability and context.

Lord, thank you for this miracle.  Thank you for the story.  It is reassuring.