Today we look at the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary.
I like to meditate on the Presentation (when Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn according to the Law of Moses) in conjunction with another incident involving the first time Jesus shed sacrificial blood on our behalf: his circumcision on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). Both are Old Testament rites of purification and both point forward to the great sacrifice this baby would offer some thirty years hence.
Here again is a mystery so great I don’t know how to get inside it or what to make of it with my rational intellect. I can only look at it. Did Jesus understand what was being done to him? Or did Jesus, being fully human, have only an infant’s understanding as the knife cut him in that most intimate way? Beats me. All I know is that, in the pain of circumcision, Y’shua enters into the covenant of his fathers and takes his place as one of the children of Israel. It’s a thing done to and for him, as it’s done to and for all the sons of Israel. It is, for Jews, a glad thing. And it’s also a painful thing, reminding us (not the child, who will not remember it) of the cost of discipleship and the need for circumcision of the heart.
That’s a striking thing, since this child, above all, needs no circumcision of heart nor rite of redemption, just as his Mother needed no purification. But in a haunting foreshadowing, he enters into and bears the pain, not for his sake, but for ours. God the infant sheds his first blood for our salvation, a down payment on a great gift he will deliver in full on Calvary. And as he does so, the prophets Simeon and Anna foretell strange things to his mother. Are they warnings or consolations? Or both? He will be the fall and rise of many in Israel, the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles, the Glory of Israel. And a sword will pierce her heart. She, like he, will have to “increase in wisdom” (Luke 2:52) to be able to bear the great sorrow they are tasting today. Like her Son, she doesn’t fully understand. But she is, like her Son, still saying yes to God. And it’s that yes, more than understanding, that God desires most from us.