After the departure of the Magi, the Mother of God said to St. Joseph:
“My master, dispose of all the offerings of the Kings as belonging to my Son and to yourself—I deserve nothing.” Together they divided the gifts into three parts: one for the Temple (the incense and myrrh and some of the gold), another for the priest who had circumcised the Child, and the rest for the poor.
A devout woman whom Mary had helped urged the Holy Family to move into her modest home, and they humbly accepted her invitation. Sadly they took leave of the holy stable, after cleaning it thoroughly.
During the days that remained before the Purification, when alone with His beloved Mother, the Infant Jesus often murmured to her:
“My Dove, My Chosen One, My dearest Mother, make thyself like unto Me!”
When the poor women and children of Bethlehem came to visit Mary, she gave them gifts and tactfully instructed them in the knowledge of God, the mysteries concerning the expected Messiah, and the practice of virtues in everyday life. Sometimes their superficial talk about such matters was so full of confusion that it made St. Joseph smile secretly, yet he continuously marveled at Mary’s patience, firmness and gentleness in leading these poor people to the truth, as well as at her great humility and reserve.
When the fortieth day after the Nativity drew near, the Immaculate Mother of God did not hesitate to subject herself to the general Hebrew law requiring the purification of mothers and the presentation of first-born sons in the Temple at Jerusalem. For she saw in the soul of her divine Son that He wished to offer Himself as a living victim to the eternal Father in the Temple.
Consequently Mary and Joseph gratefully took leave of the good woman who had sheltered them, and went with Jesus to the cave of the Nativity for a last visit. Having gently placed the Christ Child on the ground at the very spot where He was born, they both knelt and prayed fervently together, and they did the same where He had been circumcised.
Then, as usual before a journey, Mary asked her husband for his blessing, and on this special occasion for his permission to make the trip on foot and with bare feet. But St. Joseph replied kindly yet firmly:
“May the Son of the eternal Father, whom I hold in my arms, give you His blessing! You may travel to Jerusalem on foot, but not barefooted, because of the weather.”
Prostrating herself on the ground for the last time in the grotto of the Nativity, with all her heart Mary thanked the Infant Jesus for the marvelous blessings which He had given to Joseph and herself and to all mankind in the stable of Bethlehem, and she prayed to God that this holy place might always be revered by Christians.
Rising to her feet, she covered herself with her cloak and took her Baby into her arms, pressing Him to her breast to protect Him from the cold winter wind. Then, after the Infant God had visibly given them His blessing, Joseph and Mary set out for Jerusalem, accompanied by a donkey bearing their few belongings and the gifts for the Temple. Some of the good shepherds bade them a sad and touchingly affectionate farewell.
During the five-mile journey, the weather was unusually severe. Cold, sleety winds made the Child Jesus shiver and weep.
Toward evening, having traveled slowly with several resting periods, the Holy Family reached the city gate of Jerusalem and found a welcome lodging in the humble home of a devout old couple without children. Then, at Mary’s suggestion, St. Joseph went alone to the Temple and made an anonymous donation of the myrrh, incense and gold, in order to avoid any ostentation of wealth at the ceremony the following day.
The holy Mother of God spent the night before the Purification in fervent prayer. Speaking to the Eternal Father, she said: “My Lord and my God, a festive day for Heaven and earth will be that on which I offer the living Victim to Thee in Thy Temple. In return, this is what I ask of Thee, my Lord: pour forth Thy mercies upon mankind, pardoning sinners, consoling the afflicted, and helping the needy! My soul shall magnify Thee forever. …”
That night, the holy man Simeon, a very old and thin priest with a short beard, was kneeling at prayer in a tiny cell of the great Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit, who dwelt in him, had already revealed to him that he was not to die until he had seen the promised Messiah. Now while he was praying in ecstasy, an angel appeared to him and told him to observe carefully the first child presented to the priests the next morning, for that child would be the Savior of the world for whom he longed so much. The angel also informed Simeon that he would die soon afterward. The old man was inflamed with joy.
The holy matron Anna was likewise favored with a vision concerning the Purification, and she rejoiced greatly, because she had been one of Mary’s teachers during her stay in the Temple as a girl.
Before dawn the Holy Family left their lodging in Jerusalem and went to the Temple, accompanied by thousands of invisible chanting angels. At the entrance of the Women’s Court, Mary knelt and humbly presented herself to God with His Son in her arms. She was dressed in a light-blue robe, over which she wore a long, yellow mantle and a white veil.
The simple and devout old priest Simeon, who had been waiting for several hours already, could no longer restrain his impatience. Moved by the Holy Spirit, he went to meet his Lord, and in the hallway he caught sight of both Mother and Child surrounded by a wonderful light. After saying a few words to Mary, with the greatest joy he took the divine Child into his arms and pressed Him to his heart. Then he quietly withdrew into another part of the building, while Mary was led by a woman to the Temple Court. St. Joseph had given the basket with the two turtledoves to Anna and then passed through another door to the men’s section.
In the large ceremonial hall everything was prepared. On the walls many lamps hung in pyramid form. Several priests had placed in front of the altar a long table covered with a white cloth on which rested a cradle-like container and two baskets.
Simeon came to Mary and led her to the table, where she placed in the cradle the Child Jesus, who was wrapped in a long sky-blue veil. Then she was led back to the grilled-in women’s section, in which about twenty mothers with their first-born sons were waiting their turn.
The holy Temple now seemed to be filled with a heavenly light. Almighty God was present there. And above the Child the heavens seemed to open before the throne of the Holy Trinity.
Simeon and three other priests, having put on their ceremonial vestments, took their places around the table and prayed over the Babe. Then Anna gave Mary the basket with her offerings of fruit and coins, and Simeon again led her to the table. One of the priests took up the Child, raised Him toward Heaven and turned to Simeon, who placed Him back in the Virgin’s arms and recited over them both some prayers from a rolled manuscript. Then Simeon led Mary back to Anna, who accompanied her to the women’s section. After these ceremonies were over, Simeon came to Mary and received the Infant Jesus from her hands. Then, raising his eyes to Heaven in an ecstasy of joy, he offered the Child to the eternal Father, glorifying God for having fulfilled the promises, and saying:
“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 people: “A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and a glory for Thy people Israel.”
St. Joseph had come to join Mary, and he listened with deep respect to the inspired words of the old man. Simeon blessed them both. Then addressing himself to Mary, who was luminous like a heavenly rose, he added:
“Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
At the moment when the priest mentioned the sword and the sign of contradiction, which were prophetical of the Passion and death of the Lord, the Child Jesus bowed His head, thereby ratifying the prophecy and accepting it as the sentence of the eternal Father pronounced by His minister. All this was understood by Mary, and she began to feel sorrow, for as in a mirror her spirit was made to see the mysteries included in this prophecy. All these things remained indelibly impressed on her memory.
Anna the Prophetess was also inspired and proclaimed the Child’s Mother blessed.
Mary then humbly kissed the hand of the priest and again asked his blessing, and she did the same to Anna, her former teacher. Then with St. Joseph and her divine Child she returned to her lodging.
Not long afterward both Simeon and Anna passed away in peace.
The Blessed Virgin Said to St. Bridget of Sweden:
“I did not need purification, like other women, because my Son who was born of me, made me clean. Nevertheless, that the Law and the prophecies might be fulfilled, I chose to live according to the Law. Nor did I live like worldly parents, but humbly conversed with the humble. Nor did I wish to show anything extraordinary in me, but loved whatever was humble.
“On that day (of the Purification) my pain was increased. For though by divine inspiration I knew that my Son was to suffer, yet this grief pierced my heart more keenly at Simeon’s words. And until I was assumed in body and soul to Heaven, this grief never left my heart, although it was tempered by the consolation of the Spirit of God. Let not, then, this grief leave thy heart, for without tribulation few would reach Heaven.”
The Blessed Virgin Said to Venerable Mary of Agreda:
“My daughter, the doctrine and example contained in this Mystery will teach thee to strive after the constancy and expansion of heart by which thou mayest prepare thyself to accept blessings and adversity, the sweet and the bitter, with equanimity.
“How persistently the human heart forgets that its Teacher and Master has first accepted sufferings, and has honored and sanctified them in His own Person!
“Remember the sorrow that pierced my heart at the prophecies of Simeon, and how I remained in peace and tranquility, even though my heart and soul were transfixed by a sword of pain.
“Seek ever to preserve inward peace.
“Full of trust in me, whenever tribulation comes over thee, fervently exclaim:
“‘The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?’”
The late Raphael Brown was a well-known author and secular Franciscan who wrote and translated many Catholic and Franciscan Works. This article was excerpted from The Life of Mary as Seen by the Mystics, Tan, 1991.
Originally from: Mother of All Peoples (USA)