The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Anthony Zimmerman
January 20, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

The Fourth Joyful Mystery is a prime occasion to re-dedicate ourselves to the Lord in our vocation of life. With Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, we present ourselves to the Lord anew to be in His service. We light a candle, place it on the altar cove and offer to God the life we live, rededicate the flame of our lives to be of service to others, to give them light, warmth and a splendid example. Luke describes how the parents of Jesus presented Jesus to the Lord in the temple of Jerusalem as the ritual prescribed for first born sons:

And 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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord," and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons."

One of the doves was a sin offering. Joseph recalled, and Mary too, the words of the angel to Joseph: "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1, 21). With a pang of heart they offered Him who is the Lamb of God, who will take away the sins of the world at the price of suffering.

The other dove was a holocaust of adoration. Joyfully Mary and Joseph promised to play their role faithfully as parents of the Son of God-made-Man, for "through Him, with Him, and in Him, all glory is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever." And the little Jesus chimed in to repeat what He had said when first introduced into this world: "Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God" (Heb 10:7).

In the shadows of the temple a man named Simeon now came forth, overjoyed to see that the Lord for whom he had been waiting had at last come. Mary allowed him to take Jesus in his arms as He intoned the prayer that we repeat daily in the liturgical evening prayer:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.

Simeon then turned to Mary and Joseph, encouraging them because he saw that their task would be a demanding one, that Mary especially would participate in the sacrifice of Jesus the Savior: "And a sword will pierce through your own soul also, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."

Next came Anna, inspired also by the Holy Spirit, to welcome the Savior to His temple: "And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem." Her witness must have made Mary and Joseph extremely glad, happy to know that Jesus was being welcomed into the world by loving believers. It is remarkable that the Israelites reserved a place of honor for holy widows, a practice that contrasts strongly with that of other cultures. From the writings of St. Paul we learn that the practice was carried over into the New Testament. It is consoling for us today that senior citizens come to daily Mass in towns and cities everywhere, to worship the Lord as did Simeon and Anna of old.

Fittingly, on the commemoration of the Presentation on February 2nd, the priests and religious who reside in Rome renew their vows at a special Mass in St. Peters. Holding a blessed candle they consecrate themselves anew to the Lord. The Fourth Joyful Mystery is prime time, we remind ourselves again, to re-dedicate our lives and activities to the Lord.

With Saint Irenaeus (125-207) and with Blessed Duns Scotus (1264-1308), to guide us, let us share a bit of their wonder and astonishment as they contemplated Christ, the Christ whom Mary and Joseph offered to the Lord in the temple, the Christ who is the joy and bliss of our hearts.


Quoted from Chapter 12 of the author's book: Evolution and the Sin in Eden, posted on the site

Christ's role as re-capitulator of the human race through His Incarnation and Redemption forms the core of Irenaean theology. The Saint of Lyons identifies the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity as the one who deals with mankind in the Old Testament even before His Incarnation. Indeed it is the Son of God who creatively designed the universe, who tailored it to be a fitting environment for His future habitation. The thought is in accord with Hebrews, where the Father addresses this profoundly significant witness to Christ as Founder of the cosmos: "Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands" (Heb 1:10).

St. Irenaeus follows through with the insight that Christ is not only Creator of the universe, but is also its raison d'etre, the reason for its creation in the first place. All lines of the cosmos therefore focus on Christ. Christ is not an afterthought conceived in God's mind as a response to the sin of Adam; on the contrary, Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the cosmos in the first place; Adam is fitted into the cosmic plans as the strategic gateway through which Christ will enter it:

He recapitulates in Himself all the nations dispersed since Adam, and all the languages and generations of men, including Adam himself. That is why St. Paul calls Adam the "type of the One who was to come" (cf. Rom 5:14), because the Word, the maker of all things, did a preliminary sketch in Adam of what, in God's plan, was to come to the human race through the Son of God. God arranged it so that the first man was animal in nature and saved by the spiritual Man. Since the Savior existed already, the one to be saved had to be brought into existence, so that the Saviour should not be in vain (Adv. Haer. III,22,3; trans. by John Saward, 64).


From article posted on "Christ, Primate."

Blessed Duns Scotus (d. 1308) presents Christ as not only the center of the creature's reditus in Deum after sin, but also as the gate of our original exitus a Deo, of election in Christ. As Scotus puts it succinctly:

God first loves himself; secondly, He loves himself for others, and this is an ordered love; thirdly, He wishes to be loved by one who can love Him in the highest way - speaking of the love of someone extrinsic to Him; and fourthly, He foresees the union of that nature which must love Him with the greatest love even if no one had fallen.

God's ordered love, then, meant that Christ should love God from the inner circle of the Trinity, from the world of creaturehood, where His feet rested on the earth. And all the rest of creaturehood would be oriented to God by none other than this Primate. On Holy Saturday we celebrate His greatness with one of the most beautiful ceremonies of the Liturgy, as we trace the cross and the marks of the wounds on the Easter candle while saying:

Christ yesterday and today
the beginning and the end
and Omega
all time belongs to him
and all ages,
to him be glory and power
through every age for ever. Amen