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Thursday, February 2, is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. This presentation – of Jesus as a baby – was done in accordance with a thousand-year-old custom started by Moses. See Exodus 13:2, where God told Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male.” And by that tradition, the consecrating came 40 days after the day of birth:
Counting forward from December 25 as Day One [for Jesus], we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem.
See Presentation of the Lord – 2016. (Including the image at left.) And just to be clear, that brings up the old-timey, “once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.”
That quaint custom came to be called “the churching of Women,” starting – as far as we can tell – back in the Middle Ages. It was still offered by the Catholic Church until the 1960s, but then discontinued. (The Anglican Church still offers the service, but it seems rarely used.)
Among other things, that quaint practice took place in “the good old days“ when giving birth was a time of real and great danger for all mothers. Accordingly, the usual prayer of Thanksgiving went something like this: “ALMIGHTY God, we give thee humble thanks for that thou hast vouchsafed to deliver this woman thy servant from the great pain and peril of child-birth.”
Beyond that, this once-prevalent ritual drew “on the imagery and symbolism” of the original Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on February 2. But for Mary, there was the problem of Virgin birth. (She hadn’t been “sullied” in the normal manner of procreation.)
The answer? According to church practice, even though Mary had “borne Christ without incurring impurity” – that is, the usual “impurity” involved in conception – “she went to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses.” In other words, in order to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, Mary went through the ritual that became known as The Churching of Women, even though she didn’t have to.
And of course, to set a good example.
But we digress…
You can see the Bible readings for the day at Presentation of Jesus. They include Malachi 3:1 – seen at right – where God said, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple.” And of course Luke 2:22-23:
“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord…” (E.A.)
And that ritual – “required by the law of Moses” – in turn went back to the time of Moses, as detailed in Exodus 13 and as already noted.
For more on the February 2 Feast Day, check out Presentation of the Lord – 2016. But the ritual described in this post brings up what might be called “the Second Presentation of the Lord.”
That Second Presentation came when Jesus was “presented to the people of Jerusalem.” But this time it came at the hands of Pontius Pilate, on what turned out to be the day before He was crucified. This Second Time Around came when Jesus was “presented,” but not in the religious Temple in Jerusalem. Rather, it came in the praetorium of the secular power. (See Pilate’s court, which noted two possible sites for this trial; either the Antonia Fortress or Herod’s Palace.)
The point being that from the time He was first “presented” at just over a month old, Jesus’ life was one long journey to the Second Presentation. (On the eve of His making the ritual sacrifice that would literally change history, if not “split history in two.”) In the same way, this February 2 marks the beginning of our own spiritual journey: through Epiphany, then Mardi Gras – as seen above left – followed by Lent, and then on into Easter Week.
And all of which reminds us that life is not all fun and games. Put another way, “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall.” (BTW: That 1944 song by The Ink Spots was based on a quotation from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s poem, The Rainy Day.) Which is another way of saying that while we know those “rainy days” are coming – that our lives will be interrupted by pain and suffering – we also know that we have “already won the Game of Life.*”
That is, we as practicing Christians know how our lives are going to turn out. We already know we’re going to have a happy ending. It’s just those “in between” details that worry us.
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“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. Thus as to knowing “that we have already won the Game of Life,” see Two Marys and a James – Saints, which indicated that the spiritual life is like water-skiing:
As yours truly once wrote, starting your spiritual pilgrimage by reading the Bible on a regular basis “is a bit like water-skiing,” or more precisely, “a bit like grabbing the handle of the rope” attached to a metaphoric “Big Motorboat in the Sky… Once you grab on, your main job is simply to hang on for dear life…”
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Re: The full Daily Office Readings for Wednesday, February 1, 2017: “AM Psalm 72; PM Psalm 119:73-96; Isaiah 54:1-10(11-17); Galatians 4:21-31; and Mark 8:11-26.” They also included the readings for the Eve of the Presentation: “PM: Psalm 113, 122; 1 Samuel 1:20-28a; Romans 8:14-21.”
Re: Rainy Day, by Longfellow. One line reads: “My life is cold, and dark, and dreary.” Another: “Into each life some rain must fall, Some days must be dark and dreary.” But there’s also this line of hope: “Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; Behind the clouds is the sun still shining.”
Re: “Just sayin.'” I first used that phrase for this blog in The True Test of Faith, in February 2015.
The lower image is courtesy of Chaos Defines Trump’s First Week in Office – NBC News. See also Analysis: Trump’s start creates chaos, and Chaos, anger as Trump order halts some Muslim immigrants. BTW: The search term “trump chaos” got me 1,430,000 results. The search term “trump strife” got me 565,000 results.