Fourth Decade: The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple
by Rembrandt van Rijn (c.1631)
oil on panel
(about 24 inches high and 19 inches wide)
Currently located in the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Netherlands
Here we are, standing on the slate floor inside the world-famous Temple in Jerusalem, action all around us. Look at the crowds of people climbing up and down the stairway. I can barely see the people moving around in the dim recesses of the Temple—it’s so dark in here you have to look carefully! This sure is a busy place. But wait –there’s an intimate, quiet, yet commanding group in front of us. What’s going on here? This looks important.
The Holy Family is in the temple to dedicate their newborn Baby Jesus to God. Our Lady, dressed in Marian blue, is in the very center of the small group. St. Joseph is squatting to her right. He holds two pure white doves near the floor. An old man with flowing, white hair and a long, white beard to the Virgin’s left holds the Holy Infant. Three men stand behind the group, bending in to get a closer look. They want to know why this old man is so awe-struck. A Jewish priest stands in front of the group, with his back to us. His hand is raised as if he’s astonished, or maybe he is giving a blessing. Let’s understand this a little better.
According to ancient Jewish custom, the first-born son in every Jewish family was "presented," or dedicated, to God. Each mother also offered God a gift: wealthy families offered a lamb, and poor families offered a pair of white doves. This celebration happened in the Temple in Jerusalem when the baby was at least 40 days old. Modern-day Orthodox and Conservative Jews (and to an extent, Reform Jews) continue this tradition, which is called Pidyon haben .
I don’t know about you, but I feel like coming closer to this group so I can hear what is going on. Come on; let’s go in.
Do you remember the Ribera painting we looked at for the Third Joyful Mystery? It was called The Adoration of the Shepherds. There are two artistic devices that are used in that painting and the painting we are looking at today; let’s see if you can identify them.
Remember how bright the Baby Jesus was in the Ribera painting? Do you see that again in this painting? The light is brightest around Jesus. The bright golden light you see in this painting is not a sunbeam or a moonbeam coming through the roof. This is a divine light that floods up and out from the Child Himself, can you see it? The Light has pierced and entered the dark world.
Can you see how Our Lady places her hand on her heart in the Rembrandt painting? Do you remember this from the previous mystery? We saw one of the shepherds doing this in the Ribera painting we looked at for the Third Joyful Mystery. Do you remember what it means? Yes, it means that Mary has realized something at a very deep level about God. This time, it’s something sad. Do you want to know what it is? Simeon told Mary that her own heart would be pierced with a sword. (Luke 2: 33-35)
It’s important to know that this didn’t literally happen, it didn’t physically happen. In other words, when the Blessed Virgin Mary passed from this world into Heaven, it was NOT because someone violently stabbed her in the chest. When Simeon said that her heart would be pierced by a sword, he meant that symbolically. Have you ever heard someone say, “My heart is broken because you did that” or “When he said that, he stabbed me in the back” or “I feel like I was punched in the stomach when she said that”? These are words grown-ups and older kids use to describe how they feel emotionally. All of these expressions describe deep sadness and disappointment.
She’s also very sad when she sees people in the world now doing things that do not help them get into Heaven. God the Father loves you very much and wants you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. All of the angels and saints – including our Blessed Mother—pray for you and will help you get there, where you will NEVER feel sad.
Won’t that be wonderful?
Now, with The Presentation of the Child Jesus in our imagination, let us pray.
For families with very young children, or for families new to the Rosary, simplify by only praying the Sign of the Cross, the Lord's Prayer, and the Hail Mary. These prayers are inside the front and back covers of your child's workbook. Follow the graphic:
For families ready to push it forward, add in one new prayer each week until you have a complete decade. Follow the outline:
Hold the Crucifix in your right hand. Make the Sign of the Cross properly, using the right hand only.
Still holding the Crucifix, state what you believe as a Catholic by saying the Creed.
Move to the first bead. Pray one Our Father.
Move to the next beads. Pray the Hail Mary three times, once on each bead.
Move to the next bead and pray one Glory Be.
Stay on the same bead. Announce the Mystery by saying these words: The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple. All men and women are the children of God. St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary honored God by carrying little Baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem and offering Him and two pure white doves to God. A great prophet named Simeon saw the Baby and knew that this was the Savior of the world, and he proclaimed his belief aloud. A wise woman named Anna blessed the Baby and His dear Mother. Then Mary carried her Son home, where He grew up happily with St. Joseph as His beloved protector and Mary as His beloved teacher and nurse.
Stay on the same bead. Pray one Our Father.
Move through the next ten beads, praying the Hail Mary on each one.
Move to the next bead. Pray one Glory Be.
Stay on the same bead. Pray the Fatima Prayer.
Make the Sign of the Cross using the Crucifix. AMEN!
An Advent Application
How exciting!! Only four days until Christmas!! Which Mass are you going to? Our schedule is on our Home page, and I hope to see you all there!
It's sometimes difficult to choose which Mass to go to. People have different cultural backgrounds which often dictate certain traditional activities like when to start your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals, what kinds of things you eat, when you will open presents, when extended family will arrive for a visit (and maybe a sleepover!!), and so on. I grew up following a Polish tradition; while my mom was busy making final preparations in the kitchen (and my dad was desperately wrapping gifts in the basement ...!) my sister and brother and I were in charge of watching the night sky. Record albums would be stacked and spinning in our 6-foot by 2-foot maple cabinet stereo system, and we would be humming, singing, and dancing along to Christmas hymns and songs -- Mitch Miller, Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Percy Faith, Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass -- do you know these names?! LOL!
You'll be surprised at their answer when you use the words want to go. The question no longer requires a yes/no response; you've already said "we're going" without saying "we're going." They are now in charge of deciding when to go. They're invested.
And writing it down in your schedule keeps you invested. After all, you are the one with the car keys.
See you in church.
Mary Acevedo, Director of Religious Education
Upcoming Family Events
here in our program, here at our parish, and throughout our Diocese.