THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE
22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.
She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
This story occurred before the Maggi came to visit Jesus, and before the Holy Family fled to Egypt.
At forty days from the birth of the Lord, Joseph and Mary went to the Temple to offer the sacrifice prescribed by Moses for the religious cleansing of natural birth, and to present Lord Jesus to God (Leviticus 12:1-4; Exodus 13:1-2).
The Law prescribed a Lamb and a bird for the sacrifice, but if the person could not afford a lamb, two birds could be offered instead (Leviticus 12:6-8), which was the case of Mary and Joseph, indicating the level of poverty the Holy Family experienced, even though they were not totally dispossessed, since the option for the poorest was a single flour offering (Leviticus 5:11-13), where the ‘burn offering’ was avoided, due to Lord YHWH’s generosity.
There was a holy man in Jerusalem in those days, called Simeon, who was guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit guided him to the Temple that day to meet Lord Jesus as He had promised him before his death, that Simeon would not die before seeing the Messiah (Luke 2:26).
This is important passage because it denotes the personhood of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit would be only an ‘energy’, the author would have said only that GOD had promised to Simeon, but not the Spirit Himself. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit, the ‘Spirit of God’ (1Corinthians 3:15; 2Corinthians 3:17), and here we see Him working independently, which is a proper characteristic of the Holy Trinity.
When Simeon saw Jesus, he made a prophesy, praising God that allowed him to meet the promised Messiah who will save the whole world and honor Israel, and told Mary that Jesus was destined to ‘the fall and rising’ of many in Israel, speaking about the welcome of some, and the rejection from others, which He will provoke, and that this will ‘reveal the thoughts of many hearts’, referring to the spiritual condition pre-existing on those who would reject Him. That is also why John says:
“Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
Simeon, also warned Mary:
“A sword will pierce through your own soul”
As announcing Jesus’s passion, and how much this will hurt Mary who will see it.
Why only Mary and not Joseph?
Joseph disappears soon from the gospel narratives, which seems to indicate that Joseph passed away and will not get to see the passion of our Lord. But St Mary did.
A prophetess, Ana, a widow who lived in prayer by the Temple, also was there, and saw our Lord, and testified about Him being the Messiah. He was one of those, who consecrated their lives in singleness to God, since she had lived only seven years married, and many more decades, single, for her own choice, in prayer and worship to God (Luke 2:36-37).
Verse 39 to 40 refer to a period posterior to the visit of the Maggi. When the Maggi came to see the Lord, they met Him at Bethlehem, and this passage speaks of the Holy Family living in Nazareth, which only happened after they returned from Egypt (Matthew 2:21-23).
There, Lord Jesus grew strong, and wise, as any normal boy, according to his humanity.