Presentation of Jesus in the Temple,
Painted by Ambriogio Lorenzetti (1290-1348),
Tempera on panel,
Painted in 1342
© Uffizi Gallery, Florence
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:
‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’
Reflection on the Altar Painting
Under the Mosaic Law, a woman was ritually ‘unclean’ for 40 days after childbirth. She was to present herself to the priests to get purified by offering a sacrifice as described in today’s reading by Luke: offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, is of course not just about Mary’s purification, but also about Jesus’ first appearance in the Temple.
We read that Jesus was welcomed in the temple by an elderly man, Simeon, who embodies Israel in its patient expectation. He acknowledges the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. This is one of the meeting points of the two Testaments, Old and New. Yes, Simeon had been waiting for this moment a long time. So today’s feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple demonstrates the dedication of Simeon and the wisdom of a life completely dedicated to the search for God’s Face... Simeon waited a long time, but his patience was rewarded. Imagine the joy he must have felt when he finally held Jesus in his arms.
In our painting executed in 1342, we see the moment of Simeon holding Jesus. Anna to the right. The Holy family on the left. In a homily of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, on this feast day he prayed: At this moment, my thoughts turn with special affection to all of the consecrated men and women throughout the world and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O, Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust all consecrated people to you,
that you may obtain for them the fullness of divine light:
may they live in listening to the Word of God,
in the humility of following Jesus, your Son and our Lord,
in the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
in the daily joy of the Magnificat,
so that the Church may be edified by the holy lives of these sons and daughters of yours,
in the commandment of love. Amen.
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