Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meditation On the Fourth Joyful Mystery: The Redemption of the Redeemer


Yesterday, November 3, was the First Saturday of the Month. The First Saturday Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary was first mentioned by Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917. After showing the three children a vision of hell she said, "You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace... I shall come to ask for... the Communion of reparation on the first Saturdays..." The First Saturday devotion is as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
I'm late on this one, but I have developed a tradition of sharing my monthly meditation here, and I don't want to make an exception this month.

This month I have chosen the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary - The Presentation of our Lord at the Temple.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, the spouse of Mary, were devout Jews who lived strictly according to the laws handed down to the Israelites by God.  One of those laws is found in Exodus 13:2:
Sanctify unto me every firstborn that openeth the womb among the children of Israel, as well of men as of beasts: for they are all mine.
From chabad.org.pl, a Jewish website:
The Torah specifically instructs that a woman's first-born male male is required to serve in the central place of worship. However, the Torah then presents a change in plans: the Levites are chosen to replace the first-born male Israelites as the workers in the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Israelite parents were required to take their firstborn male child to the temple and then redeem him, which means to buy the the child back:
To legitimately excuse the Israelite first-born male from direct service to God, the child's father is required to buy his son from the Kohen for the redemption price of five shekels, with five silver dollars serving as an appropriate substitution in modern times.
Luke 2:23-24 tells us the redemption price at the time of Jesus:
As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons:
Circumcision of Christ by Albrecht Dürer
Many people confuse the presentation of our Lord at the temple with the time of Christ's circumcision.  The circumcision took place 8 days after Christ's birth which, assuming that Christ was born on December 25, would correspond to January 1.  That is why January 1 has always been a holy day in the Church's calendar.  Unfortunately, the new calendar of the church has changed this day to "The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary," which obscures the original meaning of January 1.  The circumcision is the first shedding of Christ's Precious Blood, picturing the time when he would shed His Blood on the Cross to redeem the world.

The presentation of our Lord at the temple, when the Redeemer was redeemed, is called Candlemas and is celebrated on February 2, which is 40 days after the birth of Christ.  Father Michael Cummins explains why this feast day is called Candlemas and its significance in our lives:
Just as Joseph and Mary carried the infant Jesus (the light of the world) into the temple so we now, through our baptisms, carry the light of Christ within us.
This is why we process with candles on Candlemas, to picture carrying the True Light, Jesus Christ, to the world.

Procession at Candlemas
So Mary and Joseph, in accordance with the command of God to the Israelites, brought the 40-day old Jesus, the Light of the world, to the temple.  Luke 2:21-22 and verse 25:
And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb.
And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: 
The first announcement to the world that the Savior had come occurred at the time of Christ's birth when the angel announced it to the shepherds in the field and to the wise men who journeyed from the East to see this great King.  The old man, Simeon, was used by God to once more announce that the Saviour had been born and was among us, and our Lord was here for everyone, not just the Jews:  "A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

From Luke 2:25-32:
Simeon holding the child Jess
And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.

And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.  And he came by the Spirit into the temple.
And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:
Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
Neither Joseph nor Mary fully comprehended this great message of Simeon (verse 33):
And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.
Joseph and Mary had to accept on faith what they were told, as so often we must do.  Often we will not understand unless and until we obey.

And then Simeon went on to give a disturbing message to Mary, the mother of Jesus:
And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.

St. Alphonsus Ligouri told us that this was beginning of  Mary's sorrows which she carried with her for the next 33 years right to the time of her Son's crucifixion:
Abraham suffered great affliction during the three days he passed with his beloved Isaac, after he knew that he was to lose him.
Oh God! not for three days, but for thirty three years, Mary had to endure a like sorrow.  Like, do I say?  A sorrow as much greater as the Son of Mary was more lovely than the son of Abraham.
The blessed Virgin herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that while she lived on earth there was not an hour when this grief did not pierce her soul. “As often,” she continued, “as I looked on my Son, as often as I wrapped Him in His swaddling clothes, as often as I saw His hands and His feet, so often was my soul overwhelmed as it were with a fresh sorrow, because I considered how He would be crucified.”
As often as she put on Him His clothes, she reflected that they would one day be torn from Him, that He might be crucified, and when she beheld His sacred hands and feet, and thought of the nails that were to pierce them, as Mary said to Saint Bridget: “My eyes filled with tears, and my heart was tortured with grief.” (Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, from The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary)
This mystery of the presentation of Jesus is included in the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary because it pictures the redemption of the Redeemer, who is bought from God the Father and given to His mother in order to redeem the world from Satan, the enemy of God who held mankind captive from the time of our first parents.  Certainly there can be no more joyous message than this, that the Saviour has come to redeem the world from death and destruction.  But it comes at a very great price for both Christ and His mother, who must carry this heavy burden every moment of every day for the rest of Christ's physical life.

As St. Alphonsus Ligouri told us, the patriarch Abraham carried the burden of having to sacrifice his son, Isaac, for three days, and then was relieved of the burden at the last moment when an angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from carrying out this command of the Lord.  Abraham then received his very much alive and unharmed son into his arms, and a lamb was substituted in place of Isaac.  This lamb, of course, pictured our Savior, Jesus Christ.  


Our Blessed Mother carried this heavy burden for 33 years compared to 3 days for Abraham, and then, unlike Abraham, she had to watch her beloved Son be mercilessly crucified with no relief whatsoever.  At the end, our Blessed Mother received into her arms the bloody, disfigured, mutilated and lifeless Body of her Son and our Savior.  

When we contemplate this mystery of the Rosary, we should certainly think of the joyous message that Simeon gave us:  "my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."  But we must also remember that it was also at this point that our Lady's sorrows began when. as she and Joseph were redeeming Jesus from God the Father, she was at the same time willingly and unselfishly giving her perfect and beautiful Son to world so that He could redeem us.  Truly, if Abraham is the father of the faithful, how much more is Mary the mother of the faithful?  Has any human being ever walked in faith more than she did, or suffered more than she did, literally walking every step of Calvary with our Lord, beginning before he was able to walk, when he was just a small babe in arms. 



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