As we continue our meditations on the Joyful mysteries, reflecting on the passages in St. Luke’s gospel, we come across today the presentation of the child Jesus in the temple of Jerusalem. Luke however tells us that the God-Man was given a name, ‘Jesus‘.(Luke 2:21). This should lead one to ask, what exactly is in a name? The answer to this thankfully is not far-fetched, for Luke tells us that this name was the name the angel had told Mary at the annunciation and so it would be wise to consider what exactly he said about this name and for the purpose of our reflection, St. Matthew helps us with this. When this Angel appeared to St. Joseph, he said of this name: ‘She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins‘.(Matthew 1:21) And so, his name signified his purpose.
It is not without reason therefore that when Divine life is born into a soul at baptism, a name is given to the new person, for he has been born again in Christ, to a new purpose.
But again, this new life is, like Christ, brought to the temple.It is important that at this point we pause to consider what is going on here, for the temple is one of the greatest symbols of the Old covenant. Many have come out, without proper understanding of the relationship between the Old and the New to paint such a picture of our most holy faith as though there was some kind of fight or dichotomy or discord between the Old and the New covenants which flowed from the One Father. The true relationship between the two is this-the former was there for the latter and the latter was the fulfillment of the former. The Old covenant was to prepare God’s people for the New, and the New accomplish what the Old had started. Christ himself said: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.…’. (Matthew 5:17)
The New temple-Christ, was presented to the Old Temple, and by that gesture lovingly said, ‘Thank you, you may now rest, for I have now arrived’. Because the Old was there to prepare for the New, it had to wait for the New. The Father wanted Simeon, a righteous man of the Old covenant to not die, but led by the Holy Spirit, to behold the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation for the whole human race.(Luke 2:25-26). And when the time had come, the Holy Spirit (note: already active at that time, for he has been active since the beginning of time) led him to our Lord.
Not only Simeon, but also Anna, such that in a short time the God-man was no longer just a sole property of Mary and Joseph but of Simeon, of Anna- and indeed of all those who were in the temple to behold the new dawn, for Anna as well spoke of him to all those who were patiently waiting for the day of the rising sun. (Luke 2:36-38). So it is with the new Christian, the life of faith he has received is indeed not merely an individualistic or ‘personal’ venture, it is also and very importantly a communal one. For the life of God which he has entered is not an ‘I‘ rather he has entered the ‘WE‘ of God-who as a matter of fact exists as a Trinitarian ‘WE‘, an ‘US’. Beware my friends, for like I told you in my last article, ravenous wolves in the form of ideas have crept in to destroy the reality of FATHER, and hence of FAMILY. We should refute this doctrine in whatever form it takes. Our divine life is intimately and spiritually connected with each and every other person’s who have entered into this same COMMUNION of love with God-for it is the same Divine Life that we all share- the same Christ, and so he being like a chief cornerstone supporting the existence of our new life in him, we are thus built into him like a House, a family, a Church-the temple that he is. When the holy apostles asked our Lord to teach them to pray, to teach the way in which they were to communicate with their Father in heaven, Our Lord told them, ‘When you pray say this: “OUR Father, who art in heaven…”.’ For Christ, when we talk to God even in the silence or privacy of our rooms and hearts, we should talk to him in the context of a we; in the context of family; in the context of the whole people of God. (Luke 11:2)
St. Paul couldn’t put it more rightly for he says: ‘You are no longer exiles, then, or aliens; the saints are your fellow citizens, you belong to God’s household. Apostles and prophets are the foundation on which you were built, and the chief corner-stone of it is Jesus Christ himself. In him the whole fabric is bound together, as it grows into a temple, dedicated to the Lord; in him you too are being built in with the rest, so that God may find in you a dwelling-place for his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22). This is why St. Paul maintains that we-the Church, are the body of Christ and by consequence, that new temple of the Holy Spirit. And this has many consequences such that as he also says, ‘if one part suffers, the rest suffer with it and if one part is treated with honour, the rest also take pleasure in it’ -note that from this stems the teaching of indulgences. (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:12,15; 5:23,29, Colossians 1:18,24, 1 Corinthians 12:12,26).
After considering what Holy Scripture says about this, the question is rightly asked- what is the Christian without the Church? A stone not part of a building and without foundation, for St. Paul says ‘the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15), he also becomes a branch cut off from a tree and without roots. This means he lacks the constant supply of stability and life that comes with this and he would soon die. The devil knows this and so has successfully lured many into believing that they can be Christians alone and by themselves, that the faith they possess is ultimately personal to them and they do not need others, worse the Church. They therefore become vulnerable to the attacks of the evil one because because they have cut themselves off. And know this, the attacks of this age come in the form of ideas.
Finally, dear friends, brothers and sisters, we turn to Mary, Mother of the new temple which is Christ, and by extension, Mother of all of us who have been built into his ‘Templeness’. We turn to her today because Simeon, led by the Spirit, turned to her while giving the prophecy about the Christ Child-the last exercise of prophecy by the Old I can say. For Simeon led by the Spirit, something was to happen to Mary that had a connection with Jesus’ mission. This strange thing that was also to happen to her had to do with the many. For he first of all prophesied about Christ to Mary saying- this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, a sign to be spoken against,-and then about Mary –and behold a sword shall pierce your own soul also so that the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare.(Luke 2:34-35). I do not yet fully understand the gravity of this prophecy for each time I read it I am immediately made aware of its depth, but what is enough to say for now is that Our Lady has some share in the suffering that was to bring about the birth, growth, and fulfillment of purpose for the Christ Child and so for us too as that same Christ child’s life is born in us. May she be support us with her prayers and motherly guidance. Amen!!!
image from http://www.mostholyrosary.com