Simeon’s Sorrowful Prophecy

Maria Mutter Gottes

While the shadow of the cross is all over the Infancy narrative, it is especially strong in Simeon’s words to Mary.  Here it is that she is first told of the suffering both she and Jesus will experience.

“Behold,  this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:35

Most people know what happened to Jesus but few of us know the Seven Sorrows of Mary. That is why she is sometimes shown with seven swords through her heart.

This prophecy at the Presentation is considered the first sorrow.  Hearing that her son would be rejected and suffer was difficult.  She pondered those words as He grew.

She did not have to wait long for the second sorrow.  Joseph had a dream in the middle of the night telling them to flee.  They escaped one of the most horrific massacres ever but at the cost of living as an exile in Egypt.

The third sorrow was when she lost the child Jesus for three days when He was twelve years old.  Fulton Sheen had a wonderful sermon on Our Lady of the Empty Arms.  She experienced what it was like for sinners to not have Jesus and to search for Him.  Every time my autistic son has run away, I have prayed to her and the Child Jesus.

The fourth sorrow was the Way of the Cross.  She saw her son struggle with the cross as he was being cursed at and jeered by the crowd. Simeon’s prophecy was becoming very real to her.

The fifth sorrow was standing at the foot of the cross for three hours as her son suffered and died.  I think she stood there willing herself to be strong for His sake.  So, He could have a place to gaze and see pure love staring back at Him.

The sixth sorrow was when He was taken down from the cross.  Did she look at His hands and feet as she did when He was born?  Did she ever so carefully remove that hated crown of thorns as if He was still capable of feeling pain? As she wrapped Him in linen cloth for His burial, did she remember wrapping Him in swaddling clothes?

The seventh sorrow was the hardest.  So quickly was He taken from her.  Sunset was coming and He had to be in the tomb before the Sabbath.  No time for her to anoint His body, no time for mourning.  Soon there was a big rock between her and her son.  So much had happened in so short a period of time.  How long did she stay there? Did she hug that rock like she couldn’t hug her son? Did she remember the kisses of birth as her soul was ripped asunder into a chasm of unbearable pain? How reluctantly did she leave with John?

What can I say for you, to what compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, O virgin daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?  Lamentations 2:13

#trcot #tcot #The Presentation #Seven Sorrows #Mary

The Presentation Reimagined

Bruges - Virgin of sorrows in St. Salvator's church
BRUGES, BELGIUM – JUNE 12, 2014: The virgin of sorrows on the windowpane in St. Salvator’s Cathedral (Salvatorskerk) by stained glass artist Samuel Coucke (1833 – 1899) with Simeon and prophet Ann,

The Presentation is one of the joyful mysteries and I have imagined it many times over the years.  Mary proudly carrying her beautiful son while Joseph carried the two turtledoves.  They gave the doves to Simeon the priest who after offering the doves took the child in his arms and praised God.  Anna, an aged widow, nearby comes to see the baby as well.

Wonderful, beautiful, except it didn’t happen that way.  Mary and Anna  would not have been allowed any further than the Court of the Women. This was not just for women only, any Jew could come there, but  the women could proceed no further.

The Temple treasury was also in the Court of the Women.  Thirteen chests also called trumpets for their shape, lined the walls.  They were narrow at the top and large at the bottom.  Each trumpet was labeled for its purpose.  Trumpet Three was for people who wanted to offer turtledoves.  Mary and Joseph would have put a couple of coins in the trumpet.  Sometime later, someone would have come and gathered the money from the trumpet and figured out how many turtledoves the priests had to offer.  If not for Simeon and Anna, it would have been a very impersonal experience.

We don’t really know much about Simeon. He is just called a man in Jerusalem, it doesn’t specify a priest.  God truly must have inspired him to go when he did.  He saw that couple out of the crowd dropping a couple of coins into Trumpet Three and he knew this child was the One! He then gave a remarkable prophecy. First thanking God for allowing him to see the Messiah that he had waited so long for, then he prophesied regarding the future suffering of Jesus and Mary.  I’ve heard it called the second Annunciation.

Both Simeon and Anna were old. I believe they represented the faithful of Israel who had grown old waiting for the Messiah.  Simeon was from Jerusalem which at one point had been the capital of Judah the Southern Kingdom.  Anna was from the tribe of Asher which was the northernmost tribe of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. That descendant of that tribe had remained faithful speaks of a remarkable faith lineage.

To begin with after Solomon, the Northern Kingdom separated from the Southern Kingdom. They no longer worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem their king had set up alternative altars.  Anna’s ancestors would have had to make the long trip to that Temple in defiance of the religious practices of their own tribes and country.  This occurred about 930 years before Christ.

Then around 721 BC, her ancestors were conquered by the Assyrians and deported to other countries.  Later the southern kingdom of Judah was also sent into exile to Babylon and the Temple was destroyed.  It would not be until 538 BC that the Israelites were even given a homeland again and that was for the Jews from Judah.

So her ancestors would had to have kept the faith for at least two hundred years in a foreign land separated from the Temple and worship before they would have had even an outside chance of returning. Most people would have been assimilated into the culture. The religion of their ancestors would have been an ancient myth if it had been passed down at all.  Anna represented the faithful of the Northern Kingdom of Israel who had contended for their faith for over 900 years.

The Messiah had come for both of them.  Their hearts are what picked the Holy Family out from the crowd. They knew the One that they had been waiting for.

#trcot, #tcot, #Simeon #Anna #Presentation

 

 

He was Called Jesus (Part Two)

Falling the walls of Jericho - Biblical scene

We continue our comparison between Jesus and Joshua.

Israel was not a nation as you and I would think of one.  The land itself was a series of tribal and family plots that would be held as that family’s possession in perpetuity. That is why over a thousand years later, all of the descendants of David went to Bethlehem.  It was their family’s city.

There are several chapters in Joshua devoted to which tribes got which towns.  Now no family was strong enough to fight off the current inhabitants of “their cities.”  It would take a nation or several tribes together to conquer the land. Joshua was the leader of the people and the army.  He determined where and how each battle was fought.

God had said that Israel was finally getting this land, not because they deserved it but because the people living there were so evil. Examples were the worshippers of Molech who burned their children alive as a sacrifice.  Others would worship their idols by having sex with temple prostitutes. God wanted all of the evil out of the country, they were to destroy the current inhabitants.  They were not to worship their gods or imitate their practices.

When Jesus went around the countryside, He visited every town and village healing people of their diseases and casting out demons.  In the Old Testament, evil was found in the individuals consumed by it.  The only way to handle it was to destroy them.  With Jesus came the power to heal and deliver people.

As St. Paul said, “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our mission is to free people not to destroy them.

Joshua never conquered all the land that he was supposed to. After people’s own home towns were conquered, they lost interest in fighting other people’s battles.  They kept the inhabitants as slaves instead of sending them to God. They ended up adopting the practices of the conquered peoples and committing grave offenses against God.

If you see someone whose life is a terrible mess, maybe it is because they have had no one to pray and fight their spiritual battles for them.  Many of us have become like the Israelites who were living in lands that were already conquered.  We ignore or look down on those who still have battles to fight.  Others of us enjoy our vices rendering us ineffectual in our prayers.

Jesus can direct us as to where and who to fight for, but His directions will be useless if we don’t respond. The Body of Christ is a lot like the nation of Israel.  It is made up of individuals and their souls. Spiritual battles won’t be won until we view our neighbor’s battles as our own. Nobody can conquer the enemy alone.

#trcot #tcot #Spiritual Warfare #Joshua

He was Called Jesus (Part One)

Baptism of Jesus

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus means “God saves”. Jesus was not the first person in the Bible to have that name.  Joshua is spelled the same way in Hebrew.  Joshua’s story is very interesting when compared to Jesus’ life.

Joshua was a loyal aide to Moses. He was sent to reconnoiter the Promised Land with eleven other scouts. Only he and Caleb had the necessary faith in God to encourage the people to enter the Promised Land.  The other ten spies filled the Israelites with fear and doubt about God’s intentions toward them.  As a result, the people refused to enter the Promised Land. So, they were sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the desert. Only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their faith.

Moses was also barred from entering the Promised Land because of a small sin that is debated as to what it was exactly.  The underlying reason I believe is that Moses represented the Law and the Old Covenant.  Following it would not be sufficient for entering the Promised Land of heaven.  For entering the physical land the people needed Joshua; for entering the True Promised Land of Heaven we need Jesus.

When it came time for the people to enter the Promised Land, Joshua had the priests bring the Ark of the Covenant into the waters of the Jordan.  When they did this the waters stopped and were backed up as far as the town of Adam.  The people crossed over on dry land just like at the Red Sea.

Centuries later, Jesus stood in that same place with John the Baptist.  John was a direct descendant of Aaron the High Priest.  John baptized Jesus in these same waters and the heavens (the Promised Land) opened. The effect of Christ’s sacrifice had an impact all the way back to Adam, the first sinner.

In Joshua’s day, all of the Israelites had to pass through the Jordan to reach the Promised Land.  Christians enter Heaven through the waters of Baptism.

#trcot #tcot #Jesus #Joshua #Baptism

Referenced Scriptures: Luke2:21, Numbers 13-14, Joshua 3, Luke 3:21-22

A Light to the Gentiles

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

When Simeon prophesied over Jesus at the Presentation, he called Him “a light for revelations to the Gentiles.” One of themes you find present in the Gospels is that the Gentiles seem to see and appreciate Jesus more than the Jews do.  Like us, they could be jaded and critical of the familiar.

It started in the Infancy narrative when King Herod, the political king of the Jews, tried to kill him. The Three Gentile Kings came from a far just to bow down and worship him.  They offered Him gifts; Herod sent an army.

During Jesus’ public ministry people clamored for Jesus to heal their loved ones.  The people in Jesus’ hometown almost felt entitled to miracles because they knew Him, but when Jesus did not perform one for them, they tried to throw Him off a cliff.

One the other hand with the Gentiles, you have the Roman centurion who says that he is not worthy to have Jesus enter under his roof, just say the word and his servant would be healed.  Jesus was astounded by this man’s faith.

The Canaanite woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter.  When Jesus rejected her because she was not Jewish, she humbled herself and said that even the dogs may eat the crumbs that fall from the children’s table. I am astounded at her humility.

The Gentiles understood Jesus authority and their own unworthiness.   The religious leaders of the day were just trying to trip Jesus up and discredit Him.

During the Passion of Christ it was the gentile Pilate who called Jesus the King of the Jews.  The priests and religious leaders who cried that they had no king but Caesar!  Pilate placed above His cross in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”.  When the chief priests tried to get him to change it to “This man said, I am the King of the Jews” Pilate refused. “What I have written I have written.”

Now all of the apostles and disciples were Jewish, so obviously Jesus was not rejected by all the Jews. However, once Peter converted the gentile household of Cornelius in Acts the door to salvation was cracked open.  The Gentiles poured into the household of God.  They could finally eat more than the crumbs that fell from the children’s table.  They were adopted children themselves. Simeon’s prophecy was fulfilled.

#trcot #tcot #Light to the Gentiles #Simeon

 

Follow that star!

Chistmas Stable In Bethlehem
A nativity scene of christs birth in bethlehem with the isolated run down stable being lit by a bright star on a dark blue sky background

Our personal knowledge of God is incomplete but if we are faithful, it can lead us into a deeper encounter with God.  The Magi were astrologers who studied the heavens which they thought controlled the destiny of man.  God used their mistaken beliefs to draw them closer until they experienced the reality of Him.  Once they encountered the Living God they fell down and worshipped Him, offering to Him their gifts.

Their knowledge became more complete. The stars were not the master of Christ’s destiny, but were rather in God’s service doing His bidding. As the Psalmist proclaimed, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Those who seek like the Magi eventually find.

One way of looking at people with different levels of faith and understanding is to think of our solar system.  Some people. like the great saints, would be on the planet Mercury.  The sun is so huge to them, it would difficult for them to see anything else.  Others are far out there where the ex-planet Pluto is.  To them our sun is a small spot in a sea of stars.  Much of the light they receive is coming from sources other than our sun and it might be difficult for them to determine where they should go or who they should worship.  Rather than debunk this and that, ad infinitum it is better to point out what is true about what they believe.

This is what St. Paul did when he was in Athens and saw multiple altars to multiple gods.  When he found the altar to the unknown God. Paul seized upon it and said, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men…that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him.”

It is not good for people to stay on the outer planets because it is cold, confusing and far from the true sun.  Unlike the real solar system, we don’t have to stay where we are. Personally, we should always seek to get ever closer to God, and encourage others to draw nearer too.

To whom much is given much is required, to whom little is given little is required. There are some who have received much less light than we have who outshine us in their faith walks. In the Catholic church we have been given the fullness of the faith with all of the sacraments, the Bible, and the teachings of the church fathers, yet there are some who take it for granted.  They cannot be bothered to come to Church to receive the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  They don’t confess their sins and are ashamed to publically speak of God.

There are others who do not have the sacraments but only know the name of Jesus. They believe in Him strongly and live their lives around Him. They will shine brighter in heaven than those who neglected the great spiritual wealth that was their birthright.

Many of our great modern teachers like Scott Hahn and Jeff Cavins have come from the Protestant faiths. They are teaching us “Cradle Catholics” to appreciate what a spiritual treasure that we possess.  Dr. Hahn by following His strong belief in the Bible was led by it into the truth behind our Catholic teachings.  When he finally encountered the reality of Christ in the Eucharist, he fell down and worshipped the Living God.

I don’t know how much light that you have been given, but I do know that life is a journey.  If you are trying to find God, you may wander here and wander there but God will eventually lead you to Him if you follow that star.

#trcot #tcot #Magi

Reference scripture Matt.2:1-12, Psalm 19[18] 1, Acts 17:22-31

 

Jesus is Born; Jesus Rises from the Dead

stained glass widow of nativity

This blog is a counterpart to an earlier blog at the start of Advent entitled Jesus enters the Virginal Womb and the Freshly Cut Tomb.  You can link to it here. https://transfigurationofcreation.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/jesus-enters-the-virginal-womb-and-the-freshly-cut-tomb/

In both cases a seed was planted. Those were Christ’s beginnings, not His ends.  Each of us began life like a seed. If given the right environment the seed grows on its own. Somehow those instructions were written in each of us to know how to create a liver, lungs and a spleen.

But the pregnancy formation is not the end unless something goes terribly wrong. We are destined for life outside the womb.  A seed is meant for life above the soil.  We were meant to share in the creative process. As seeds produce more seeds, so we are designed to give back to the earth, to life, and to the God who made us.

But this life is not the end, we are meant to die.  Jesus’ resurrection tells us that death is not the end.  Life was but a bigger womb not an end in itself. This life has been a formation for eternal life.  In some mysterious way what we have done here on earth is preparing us for the life that is ahead.  Perhaps music lovers will sing with the celestial choirs.  Artists will see all the colors of the spectrum and create works of art out of light itself.  Beauty’s true home is heaven.  My dearest wish would be to sit in the company of the church fathers and just listen.

I think if we really knew how important the formation of this life is, we would care more deeply about spiritual things and less about transitory material things.  But all we can do is prepare the soil of our soul and yield to the seeds that planted.  It is God that does the formation.

Related scripture: Mark 4:26-32

#trcot #tcot #birth and death #Resurrection