Those faithful to the Lord observe carefully that today's feast commemorates the second of two distinct rites observed by Mary and Joseph with their new-born Son. A segment of time has passed between the circumcision and his meeting with the people He will save and redeem. Today He is introduced to the purpose for which He entered the world and assumed our humanity in perfection. According to Leviticus (12: 1 -8), a mother had to wait thirty three days after the circumcision before presenting a son in the temple. How ironic it is that we now see He had to wait thirty three years to achieve what is initiated today! We are taught the reason why every first born male was to be redeemed. This ritual is an astounding reminder that "...the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand" Exodus 13: 16. Mary and Joseph go to Jerusalem in obedience to this command. Like all devout Jewish parents, they presented their infant to the eternal Father to participate personally in sacrifice and redemption. When Jewish parents offered their first born sons to the Lord, they were recalling and symbolizing the act of freely giving him up saying, "He is yours and we give him back to you." Then they would immediately redeem him or, in effect, buy him back, thereby recognizing what a gift from God, for a time, we have in our children.
Few teachings are more important and consistent to God's Word than understanding redemption. The Hebrew Word is padhah meaning "to redeem by paying a price." The New Testament tells us Christ came to fulfill for us the very rite Mary and Joseph liturgically observed as they brought the Christ Child to the Lord where He encounters and meets the very people He has come into the world to save and redeem. He will accept from us our sinfulness and exchange it for the purity of his own purposeful life. He observes in himself the fullness of the Law prescribed centuries before for all first born sons. Thus He becomes for us, our Leader, our Exemplar the first-born in the newly perfected race of man.
We learn from this Infant God how vital and important is the temple, the place where the glory of God dwells. If this is the place where God the Son comes to encounter God the Father, it is also the place where a son of God in the flesh comes eagerly to encounter his Creator God and Redeemer. We come to the temple, always because we do believe what our God says about our value to him.
We come before the Holy of Holies and see precisely what our Lord, the ever-Virgin and the foster father saw: all that witnessed to the presence of God's glory on earth. On our altar table is the tabernacle, Ark of the Covenant surrounded by angelic images. Within is not the manna fallen from heaven, but the Body and Blood of the Son of God. Nor do we behold the Ten Commandments graven in stone by the finger of God, but the Gospel book, inscribed on the hearts of believers alongside the life-saving image of the Cross of Christ, the wood of the tree reminiscent of Aaron's dried out rod/stick which blossomed and imparted life. When God's grace leads and inspires us to worship in his temple, we live in our time just like the Holy Family did in theirs.
St. Paul reminds us, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, in accordance with the riches of God's race" Ephesians 1: 7. Consider this resonating to us from St. Paul's Jewish background and perspective. He drew a parallel to our entrance into the family of God. Since most of us are non-Jews, Gentiles as it were, we are considered the "adopted ones" in God's family. What was true in a tangible sense after the birth of a Jewish son is also true of us in a spiritual sense after our rebirth as "sons" of God. We all must be redeemed because we cannot redeem ourselves. The wonderful picture for us, however, is that we are not bought from God by our natural parents. Rather, Christ buys us from our natural parentage and inheritance, which is sinful flesh, to offer us to the eternal Father.
We are brought to the temple of God in baptism to encounter our redemption possibility and initiated into it. We make it our own. We are introduced to the eternal life of our Creator Father. We are made part of the Family of God, adopted into and grafted on to for certain redemption and assured if we are faithful to our baptismal and chrismational challenges; we are made citizens not only of the temple precinct, but of heaven itself. The earthly poverty of our Lord has to do with us as it conveys, through the words of St. Paul an enriching significance, "...though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" 2 Corinthians 8: 9. He is accepted by those He redeems: Simeon and Anna who lift him on high to his Father and, in essence, purchased him from heaven - for a while, for a short 33 years - for a lost world. One day this baby would buy them from the values of earth for the glory of heaven.
How grateful are genuine believers as we today see and witness the perfection and continuity of God's Word in Christ: the prefect joining of the Old Testament promise and New Testament fulfillment!