Today we celebrate Jesus’ presentation at the temple. This event is recorded only in the Gospel of Luke and is rooted in the Jewish practices of purification of a mother after childbirth and the offering of the firstborn son. While the event centers on Mary, Joseph and Jesus, two community members support the Holy Family during this celebration.
In ancient Judaism, after childbirth women were required to be purified before interacting with people and sacred objects. Giving birth to Jesus made Mary ceremonially unclean for 40 days (Lv 12:2-4)…At the end of the purification period, Mary and Joseph offered a sacrifice of two pigeons, which was expected from people who could not afford to offer a sheep (Lv 12:8). The parents also present Jesus at the temple, as was customary for all firstborn male children (Ex 13:2).
When Mary and Joseph present Jesus, they encounter two prophetic figures, Simeon and Anna, both of whom recognize the significance of Jesus…Recognizing the Messiah, Simeon takes Jesus into his arms and affirms that he can die having seen the Christ. Simeon asserts that Jesus is “a ligt for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for you people Israel” (Lk 2:32)…Simeon blesses the parents and offers a message specifically to Mary that despite his importance, Jesus would be rejected by many.
At the presentation Anna offers praise and thanksgiving to God and speaks about Jesus to all who were looking for redemption (Lk 2:38).
Although the Holy Family is central to this feast of the Presentation, Simeon and Anna play vital roles. Simeon publicly confirms Jesus’ identity and future ministry, and Anna shares Jesus with the world, proclaiming him to the Gentiles and Jews mentioned in Simeon’s prophecy. These community members affirm the significance of Jesus to the world.
(Taken from a reflection by Jaime L. Waters in America magazine)