He invites us to look at the merciful action of God who pours out the
Spirit on his faithful in order to bring his mysterious plan of love to
"In the episode of the Presentation we can glimpse the meeting
of Israel's hope with the Messiah. We can also see in it a prophetic
sign of man's encounter with Christ", the Holy Father said at the
General Audience of Wednesday, 11 December, while reflecting on the
mystery of Jesus' Presentation in the temple and the significance of
Simeon's prophetic words. His Holiness Karekin I, Supreme Patriarch and
Catholicos of All Armenians, was present at the General Audience. The
Pope introduced him before delivering his catechesis, which was the 39th
in the series on the Blessed Mother and was given in Italian. The
Catholicos spoke after the Pope's catechesis.
1. In the episode of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, St Luke
emphasizes Jesus' messianic destiny. The immediate purpose of the Holy
Family's journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem according to the Lucan text
was to fulfil the law: "And when the time came for their
purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to
Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the
Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the
Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of
the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons'" (Lk
With this act, Mary and Joseph show their intention of faithfully
obeying God's will, rejecting every kind of privilege. Their coming to
the temple in Jerusalem has the significance of a consecration to God in
the place where he is present.
Obliged by her poverty to offer turtledoves or pigeons, Mary in fact
gives the true Lamb who would redeem humanity, thus anticipating what
was prefigured in the ritual offerings of the old law.
Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit
2. While the law required the purification after birth of the mother
alone, Luke speaks of the "time for their purification"
(2:22), intending perhaps to indicate together the prescriptions
involving both the mother and the firstborn Son.
The term "purification" can surprise us, because it is
referred to a Mother who had been granted, by a singular grace, to be
immaculate from the first moment of her existence, and to a Child who
was totally holy. However, it must be remembered that it was not a
question of purifying the conscience from some stain of sin, but only of
reacquiring ritual purity which, according to the ideas of the time, may
be harmed by the simple fact of birth without there being any form of
The Evangelist uses the occasion to stress the special link existing
between Jesus, as "first-born" (Lk 2:7, 23) and God's
holiness, as well as to indicate the spirit of humble offering which
motivated Mary and Joseph (cf. Lk 2:24). In fact, the "two
turtledoves or two young pigeons" (Lv 12:8), was the offering of
3. In the temple, Joseph and Mary meet Simeon, "righteous and
devout, looking for the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25).
The Lucan narrative says nothing of his past or of the service he
carried out in the temple; it tells of a deeply religious man who
nurtures great desires in his heart and awaits the Messiah, the
consolation of Israel. In fact, "the Holy Spirit was upon him"
and "it had been revealed to him ... that he should not see death
before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Lk 2:25-26). Simeon invites
us to look at the merciful action of God who pours out the Spirit on his
faithful to bring to fulfilment his mysterious project of love.
Simeon, a man who is open to God's action, "inspired by the
Spirit" (Lk 2:27), goes to the temple where he meets Jesus, Joseph
and Mary. Taking the Child in his arms, he blesses God and says,
"Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your
word" (Lk 2:29).
Simeon uses an Old Testament phrase to express the joy he experiences
on meeting the Messiah and feels that the purpose of his life has been
fulfilled; he can therefore ask the Most High to let him depart in peace
to the next world.
Joseph and Mary present Saviour of all mankind
In the episode of the Presentation we can glimpse the meeting of
Israel's hope with the Messiah. We can also see in it a prophetic sign
of man's encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit makes it possible by
awakening in the human heart the desire for this salvific meeting and by
bringing it about.
Nor can we neglect the role of Mary who gives the Child to the holy
old man Simeon. By divine will, it is the Mother who gives Jesus to
4. In revealing the Saviour's future, Simeon refers to the prophecy
of the "Servant" sent to the chosen people and to the nations.
To him the Lord says, "I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I
have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the
nations" (Is 42:6). And again: "'It is too light a
thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and
to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the
nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Is
In his canticle, Simeon reverses the perspective and puts the stress
on the universality of Jesus' mission: "For my eyes have seen your
salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a
light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory for your
people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32).
How can we fail to marvel at these words? "And his father and
mother marveled at what was said about him" (Lk 2:33). But this
experience enabled Joseph and Mary to understand more clearly the
importance of their act of offering: in the temple of Jerusalem they
present the One who, being the glory of his people, is also the
salvation of all mankind.