Skip to comments.A Dramatic Biblical Moment that almost Every one Missed
Posted on 02/03/2014 1:36:37 AM PST by markomalley
The Feast Yesterday of the Presentation of Jesus was a rich fare. In my homily I did not have time to cover all I wanted to. Frankly, the moment of the Presentation was one of the most dramatic in Biblical history, and yet almost no one noticed. Lets consider this astonishing moment.
The first part of this post is review for those of you who read regularly. To skip to the newer insights goo down to the red line.
Joseph and Mary have ascended to Jerusalem to fulfill two ancient mandates: the Rite of Purification for a woman after childbirth and the Rite of Presentation of their firstborn male child, Jesus. These rites set the stage for a dramatic moment in Biblical history, a moment missed by almost everyone. We shall explore this dramatic moment shortly but first a little background.
Jewish law considered that, after a woman gave birth she became ritually impure for a period. While this seems unjust to us, the Jewish notion was rooted in the flow of blood that occurred in childbirth and just about anyone who came in contact with blood incurred a ritual uncleanness for a period of time. The Book of Leviticus has this to say regarding a woman who has given birth:
The LORD said to Moses, Say to the Israelites: A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean. (Lev 12:1-8).
As you can see, there is a fairly negative concept at work here from a modern viewpoint. A woman becomes ritually unclean by giving birth. This was due not to birth per se but to the flow of blood and/or other fluids at birth. Even more distressing to modern notions is that a woman who gave birth to a daughter was considered ritually unclean for even longer! Alas, it is well that the power of the Church to bind and loose has freed us from this thinking. Keep in mind that this was ceremonial law, not moral law and, hence, the Church is not setting aside immutable moral law in abrogating such notions of ritual impurity.
Obedient to the Law Nevertheless Joseph and Mary, obedient to law make the dramatic ascent to the Temple, the Son of God carried in Marys arms. It is forty days since the birth of the Lord in fulfillment of the Law.
As they ascend the glorious steps to the Temple Mount they also fulfil another requirement of the Law:
You are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. In days to come, when your son asks you, What does this mean? say to him, With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons. (Ex 13:12-15)
But something even more dramatic takes place here. To understand what it is, lets look back to 587 BC.
The Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem and the unthinkable had happened. The Holy City was destroyed and, along with it, the Temple of God. Inside the Temple something even more precious than the building had been housed: the Ark of the Covenant.
Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a box of Acacia wood, covered in gold. Inside it were placed: the two tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments. Also in it was the staff of Aaron, and a vile of the Manna. More importantly, in this box, this ark, dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel. God mysteriously dwelt within, much as is the case today in our understanding of the tabernacle in our Catholic Churches.
The Lost Ark Incredibly however, the Ark was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 587 BC. It was never found again. Some thought Jeremiah had hid it in the Mountains, others that the priests had hastily hid it in the maze of caves beneath the Temple Mount. Others argue it was taken to Ethiopia. But in the end, the Ark had gone missing.
Empty Temple When the Temple was rebuilt some eighty years later, the Holy of Holies was restored but the Ark was missing. The High Priest still performed the yearly ritual and entered the Holy of Holies, but the room was empty. Some argued for a spiritual presence in the Temple, but in fact the Ark and the certain presence of God were missing in the Temple after 587 BC. The Ark was never found and returned there. Something, someone, was missing. The very Holy of Holies was an empty room, the Ark, and the presence of God it carried were missing: the Ark, the mercy seat, gone. Would it ever be found? Would it ever be returned to the Temple? Would the Holy Presence of God ever find its way to the Temple again?
The ascent to Jerusalem is a steep one. The mountains surround Jerusalem and the City sits up at a higher altitude than the area around it. As the ancient Jews made the climb they sang the psalms of ascent: Psalms 120-134. As Joseph and Mary ascended they too sang the words that instilled joy: I Lift up mine eye to the mountains from whence cometh my help (121) ..I rejoiced when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (122) ..To you O Lord I have lifted my eyes (123) .Like Mount Zion are those who trust in the Lord (125) .Out of the depths I call unto you O Lord! (130) ..Let us enter Gods dwelling, let us worship at the Lords footstool. Arise O Lord and enter your dwelling place, You and the Ark of your strength! (132) .Come and bless the Lord, You who stand in the House of the Lord Lift your hands to the Sanctuary and bless the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion (134).
Singing these songs, Mary carried Jesus. The climb was even more difficult carrying a newborn babe. But the burden was sweet. A final ascent up the stairs to the Temple Mount. Likely they entered on the southern side through the Huldah gates. Going up the steep stairs, through the tunnel in the walls and emerging on to the bright Temple platform above.
God had returned to His Temple. He, and the Ark who carried him, were found. Mary the Ark, carrying Jesus in her arms. Jesus, very God, true God from True God. Yes, God and the Ark had been found and God was once again present among His people on the Temple Mount. Scripture says:
And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? (Mal 3:1-2)
What a dramatic moment. And yet what a remarkable understatement by God! If I were to direct the moment I would have called for trumpet blasts, peals of thunder and multitudes of angels! And everyone would fall to their knees in recognition of the great fulfillment and the great return of God to his Temple.
Yet, it would seem only an elderly Man and woman took any note at all: Simeon and Anna. They alone understood they were in the presence of greatness and beheld the drama of the moment:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lords Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. The childs father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too. There was also a prophetess, Anna Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2)
Yes, here was the dramatic moment awaited for centuries. The ark of God was found (Mary), and God (Jesus) returned to his temple. But only a few noticed. Just a few understood and celebrated.
And what of us? At every Mass Jesus, God himself is present. Yet how many notice? Do they really see him? Or do they see only the human priest and the human elements of the Mass. Do you see? Do you notice? Are you Simeon? Anna? Mary? Joseph? Or are you just among those on the Temple Mount who miss the dramatic moment of God with us?
Msgr Pope ping
We still do it. It is magnificent.
Brilliant!! Many Thanks for this!! This also will greatly enhance meditating on the Presentation during the Joyful mysteries.
At the presentation the Ark and the living God at last returned to the Temple.
Simeon stood there as the representative of those thousands before him who had patiently awaited the return of God. He spoke these words.
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
It's as if Simeon was the representative of the Old Covenant: and this was the moment when the Old Covenant graciously recognized and gave way to the New.
Hmm. So the Church has the power to override God's commands.
Good to know.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth.
These are Christ's words. He gives His Church both sacramental and doctrinal power.
In this case the Church has indeed recognized that ritual impurity (including female impurity after birth) belonged to the old order. We live under the New Covenant.
Hope this was helpful.
Using the text from Opening the Word (a great app which I recommend) he left out the phrase after the line about the sword, “and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” I’ve been meditating on that phrase all weekend. I’m open to suggestions from you as to what it means.
Also, climbing up a steep mountain after giving birth would be difficult. Seems reasonable to wait several weeks to go. Perhaps the length of time was longer with girls because the Lord knew that they were going to have a harder time in the world and needed more time to bond with mom.
>Sort of neat how everything fits together.
According to Rev. 11:19, the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ is in Heaven. It must have been taken up from the Earth at some point.
At some point doubtless the Ark will be taken up to Heaven.
” At some point doubtless the Ark will be taken up to Heaven.”
She’s already there.
” 29. Among the holy writers who at that time employed statements and various images and analogies of Sacred Scripture to Illustrate and to confirm the doctrine of the Assumption, which was piously believed, the Evangelical Doctor, St. Anthony of Padua, holds a special place. On the feast day of the Assumption, while explaining the prophet’s words: “I will glorify the place of my feet,” he stated it as certain that the divine Redeemer had bedecked with supreme glory his most beloved Mother from whom he had received human flesh. He asserts that “you have here a clear statement that the Blessed Virgin has been assumed in her body, where was the place of the Lord’s feet. Hence it is that the holy Psalmist writes: ‘Arise, O Lord, into your resting place: you and the ark which you have sanctified.”’ And he asserts that, just as Jesus Christ has risen from the death over which he triumphed and has ascended to the right hand of the Father, so likewise the ark of his sanctification “has risen up, since on this day the Virgin Mother has been taken up to her heavenly dwelling.””
Pius XII, Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus.
For the thread: Mary is truly regarded as the Ark of the New Covenant. She literally carried God within her. She is the sanctified Ark of God.
I remember that one Greek title for Mary is Theotokos - the "God-bearer". Very right and proper.
At the presentation in the temple she carried God back to the Temple, from which the presence of God had long been absent.
The gentleman that I was replying to was - I believe - referring to the Ark of the Old Covenant. This seems likely to be the Ark referred to in the passage that he cited, as Mary appears elsewhere in Revelation (clothed with the sun and with the moon beneath her feet).
” The gentleman that I was replying to was - I believe - referring to the Ark of the Old Covenant.”
We always need to keep Hebrews in mind, e.g., Heb 8:5 (” They worship in a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, as Moses was warned when he was about to erect the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.””), Heb 10:1 (” Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them...”), etc.
Since the heavenly ark has been made manifest, the prefigurement is not going to be of any great significance.
Nice. Thanks for posting.
You know, that is a really good point.
There exists in heaven a real sacrifice - offered by Jesus our true High Priest - of which the service in the Jewish sanctuary (with its rules against impurity, the use of animal blood and the ‘old’ Ark) was only a faint shadow or outline.
The Mosaic Ark and the old sacrifice have now been fulfilled by the Blood of the Lamb and the sacrifice of the Mass.
I daresay that the Mosaic Ark will be brought safe into heaven and given a place of honor. It carried God’s presence and was the type or shadow of our salvation.
But now God gives His very self to us in the Mass. We ourselves become Arks of the Covenant every time we receive Him.
Hmm. So the Church has the power to override God's commands.
RCs are indeed not to objectively examine the Scriptures in order to ascertain the veracity of RC doctrines, as she presumes to exalt herself above that which is written.. (cf. 1Cor. 4:6)
"The intolerance of the Church toward error, the natural position of one who is the custodian of truth, her only reasonable attitude makes her forbid her children to read or to listen to heretical controversy, or to endeavor to discover religious truths by examining both sides of the question. This places the Catholic in a position whereby he must stand aloof from all manner of doctrinal teaching other than that delivered by his Church through her accredited ministers." (John H. Stapleton, Explanation of Catholic Morals, Chapters XIX, XXIII. the consistent believer (1904); Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor Librorum. Imprimatur, John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York ; http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18438/18438-h/18438-h.htm)
..having once found the true Church, private judgment of this kind ceases; having discovered the authority established by God, you must submit to it at once. There is no need of further search for the doctrines contained in the Christian Gospel, for the Church brings them all with her and will teach you them all. You have sought for the Teacher sent by God, and you have secured him; what need of further speculation?
All that we do [as must be patent enough now] is to submit our judgment and conform our beliefs to the authority Almighty God has set up on earth to teach us; this, and nothing else.
He willingly submits his judgment on questions the most momentous that can occupy the mind of man-----questions of religion-----to an authority located in Rome.
Absolute, immediate, and unfaltering submission to the teaching of God's Church on matters of faith and morals-----this is what all must give..
The Vicar of Christ is the Vicar of God; to us the voice of the Pope is the voice of God. This, too, is why Catholics would never dream of calling in question the utterance of a priest in expounding Christian doctrine according to the teaching of the Church;
He is as sure of a truth when declared by the Catholic Church as he would be if he saw Jesus Christ standing before him and heard Him declaring it with His Own Divine lips. - Henry G. Graham, "What Faith Really Means", (Nihil Obstat:C. SCHUT, S. T.D., Censor Deputatus, Imprimatur: EDM. CANONICUS SURMONT, D.D.,Vicarius Generalis. WESTMONASTERII, Die 30 Septembris, 1914 ); http://www.catholictradition.org/Tradition/faith2-10.htm]
The following statement by Roman Catholic apologist Karl Keating regarding the teaching of the Assumption of Mary is an illustration of this very point.
Still, fundamentalists ask, where is the proof from Scripture? Strictly, there is none. It was the Catholic Church that was commissioned by Christ to teach all nations and to teach them infallibly. The mere fact that the Church teaches the doctrine of the Assumption as definitely true is a guarantee that it is true. Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), p. 275.
Yet not only does Scripture not teach record this of Mary much her being crowned already, and made the Queen of Heaven besides others things said of the Mary of Rome , but the Assumption even lacks evidence from the earliest church "fathers."
"...the notion of Mary's assumption into heaven has left no trace in the literature of the third, much less of the second century. M. Jugie, the foremost authority on this question, concluded in his monumental study: 'The patristic tradition prior to the Council of Nicaea does not furnish us with any witness about the Assumption.'" (Raymond Brown [Sulpician Father; S.S.], "Mary In The New Testament" [Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1978], p. 266)
But Rome has presumed to infallibly declare she is and will be perpetually infallible whenever she speaks in accordance with her infallibly defined (scope and subject-based) formula, which renders her declaration that she is infallible, to be infallible, as well as all else she accordingly declares.
And Rome's presumption extends even to her priests. As Ligouri, whose writings were declared free from anything meriting censure by Pope Gregory XVL (1839) in the bull of his canonization) asserts,
With regard to the mystic body of Christ, that is, all the faithful, the priest has the power of the keys, or the power of delivering sinners from hell, of making them worthy of paradise, and of changing them from the slaves of Satan into the children of God. And God himself is obliged to abide by the judgment of his priests, and either not to pardon or to pardon, according as they refuse or give absolution, provided the penitent is capable of it. " Such is," says St. Maximus of Turin, " this judiciary power ascribed to Peter that its decision carries with it the decision of God." 2 The sentence of the priest precedes, and God subscribes to it. . Dignity and Duties of the Priest, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Vol. 12, p. 2
The supreme power of the priestly office is the power of consecrating...Indeed, it is equal to that of Jesus Christ...The priest speaks and lo! Christ, the eternal and omnipotent God, bows his head in humble obedience to the priest's command...For the priest is and should be another Christ. O'Brien, The Faith of Millions, 255-256.
Besides more than the apostles being present when these words about binding and loosing were spoken, (cf. Lk. 24:13ff) "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning," (Rm. 15:4) and Mt. 18:15-18 follows the OT model of judgment, in which Moses took "wise men, and understanding," and charged them as judges, "Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him." (see Deuteronomy 1:13-18) Matters too hard for them went to the supreme court. (Dt. 17:8-13) And it also was mandated that the king be given a copy of the Law to live and judge by. (Dt. 18:18.19)
And thus in the New Testament we see apostolic instruction for the local church to choose wise men from among themselves to judge temporal matters, (1Cor. 6:1-6) and wise men full of the Holy Spirit as deacons, (Acts 6:3) and the ecumenical council for larger issues. (Acts 15)
However, as regards Acts 15, the veracity of the ruling therein rested upon scriptural warrant, (Is. 11:10; Amos 9:11,12; Joel. 2:28; Gen. 22:18; Is. 41:22; cf. Acts 11:18); (Gen. 34:2,27; 35:2; Ex. 20:3-5; Gen. 9:4; Lev. 3:17; Rm. 15:8-12,19; Num. 23:19 Amos 9:11-12) and neither the Old Testament for the New Testament magisterial examples required or inferred perpetual assured (conditional) infallibility of office, which Rome claims. And as this is a critical aspect of Rome, she therefore cannot be the one true church.
In addition, what the power of binding and loosing is also manifest to be in the New Testament is that of exercising discipline such as in 1 Corinthians 5, and special cases of intercession such as James chapter 5. Men such as the apostles had more veracity and power than they, as we see in acts chapter 5 with two dead people.
However, the power of binding and loosing does not constitute Roman Catholic confession in which the people regularly have to come to pastors to find forgiveness of sins. Nowhere do we see disciples coming to NT pastors to have sins forgiven. And when a New Testament pastor did confess that he was guilty, he told the man himself to pray to God that perhaps the thought of his heart would be forgiven him. Upon which the man asked for intercessory prayer, which is scriptural, but there is nothing there about Peter granting absolution. (Acts 8:22-24)
Confession itself is good and right, the only confession commanded in Scripture, is that which is exhorted in James 5, which is a general expectation to confess in this one to another, not simply to pastors. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16) And they are promised, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)