Feast of the Purification of the BVM

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Forty days after the birth of our Lord, the Most Blessed Virgin carried Him to the temple to be offered to God as her first-born Son according to the ordinance of the Jewish law, and, after the custom of all Hebrew women, to purify herself after childbirth. There are here deep mysteries to be meditated. God presented in His own temple, and the Mother of God, the purest of Virgins submitting to the law of purification. What need had Mary to purify herself? This Virgin-Mother had never ceased to be perfectly pure; her only Son is God as well as Man; He is the Master of the law and the source of all purity; they cannot then, either of them, be obliged by this law of purification. But God had given to the Jews a law that required of all mothers three things: the first was to present themselves in the temple forty days after they had given birth to a son; the second, to offer to God two doves to be sacrificed, in order to purify themselves; the third, to present also their child to God as a gift which they had received from Him.

It is evident neither Jesus nor His Mother had any need to offer themselves to God, or to be purified; but they willed to observe the law, and accomplish all its exterior ceremonies as an example to all the people of Israel. They wished also to teach us many great virtues, which they practiced themselves in this action and which were destined to contribute to the salvation of the world; these were supreme adoration of God, obedience, humility, and the spirit of sacrifice.

It cannot be doubted that the very reasons that obliged all other mothers to observe the law of purification exempted the most Holy Virgin. One of these reasons was the sin of our first parents which had caused all their descendants to be born in sin. Their mothers, in carrying them to the temple, while they rendered thanks to God asked at the same time mercy for their sins. The Blessed Virgin had never any part in original sin, her Son was the Holy of holies, the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world; she had conceived and brought Him forth, still preserving stainless virginity; there was no reason then that obliged her to the law of purification. But the law she made unto herself was the law of edification. She would not scandalize her neighbour. Now, what would they have thought if they had seen her, who passed for a pious woman in Israel, dispensing herself from the observance of a law that all other women exactly observed? Learn from this admirable model that we are under obligation to give to our neighbours the edification expected of us. The higher our reputation for piety is, the more scandal do we give, if we are lax even in observances we think of less importance, because we often thus occasion the fall of others, who are led by our example to abandon some pious practice.

The law therefore which Mary made for herself was the law of love to us. She knew that since the fall of Adam the world expected Him who was to be its Redeemer. As soon, therefore, as she held in her arms Him who was to be the Saviour of sinful man, she hastened to the temple, she offered Him in sacrifice, she placed in the hands of the priest the Victim offered for the sins of the world, and she thus voluntarily participated in the work of our salvation. Mary had been the Mother of Jesus for only a few days, and already she felt she was also our Mother; she offers for us - so cold, so indifferent, so unloving as we are - her dearly loved divine Son!

Let us turn our regards for a few moments on the saintly old man Simeon, who had the happiness of receiving into his arms the Infant Jesus, and who was the first priest who offered this divine Victim to God. Simeon, the Gospel tells us, waited for the consolation of Israel. The heart of this just man, nourished by reading and meditation on the holy books, awaited with faith and pious impatience Him who was to redeem Israel; thus it was he merited that the Messiah should be placed in his arms by His most Holy Mother while a divine light illumined him interiorly, making known to him that this was the promised Saviour of the world. Then, his heart overflowing with happiness broke forth into the Nunc dimittis, a canticle of rapturous joy: Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant O Lord in peace, Since my eyes have seen Thy salvation.

Our Lord favours us far more than He did the holy old Simeon; He comes not only for an instant to rest in our arms, but He unites Himself to us in the most intimate manner and at any time that we desire, since it is for this that He always remains in the tabernacle and so lovingly invites us to unite ourselves to Him in Holy Communion; but is our fidelity great as was St. Simeon's? Do we desire the coming of the Lord with his holy impatience, and are our souls illumined with joy when He deigns to visit us? Alas! There are amongst us many so insensible they would never approach Holy Communion at all but for the menaces of the Church! Jesus extends His arms tenderly to them and they will not cast themselves into them. They must be compelled! Nay, there are some Catholics who close their hearts and wholly refuse to receive Him! Senseless and ungrateful, they perish with hunger, with the Bread of Life close at hand! They are poor: by their side is a treasure, yet they do not possess themselves of it! Ah! Pray to Mary to open their eyes and to draw them to her Son. If they do but come to know Him, they must love Him, and this love will fill their hearts with heavenly joy.

From Ave Maria. May 16, 1868

-- The Straight Skinny (saint@the.day), January 31, 2004


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-- The Straight Skinny (saint@the.day), January 31, 2004.

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