Simeonís prediction that a sword would pierce Maryís heart was
fulfilled at the foot of the Cross, when she was closely united to her
"Beginning with Simeon's prophecy, Mary intensely and
mysteriously unites her life with Christ's sorrowful mission: she was to
become her Son's faithful co-worker for the salvation of the human
race", the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday,
18 December 1996, reflecting on the significance of Simeon's predictions
at the Presentation in the temple. Here is a translation of his
catechesis, which was the 40th in the series on the Blessed Mother and
was given in Italian.
1. After recognizing in Jesus "a light for revelation to the
Gentiles" (Lk 2:32), Simeon announces to Mary the great trial to
which the Messiah is called and reveals her participation in that
His reference to the redeeming sacrifice, absent at the Annunciation,
has shown in Simeon's prophecy almost a "second Annunciation"
(Redemptoris Mater, n. 16), which will lead the Virgin to
a deeper understanding of her Son's mystery.
Simeon, who up to that moment had addressed all those present,
blessing Joseph and Mary in particular, now prophesies to the Virgin
alone that she will share in her Son's destiny. Inspired by the Holy
Spirit, he announces to her: "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" (Lk 2:34-35).
Mary's maternal suffering would reach culmination in the Passion
2. These words foretell a future of suffering for the Messiah. He is,
in fact, "the sign of contradiction", destined to meet harsh
opposition on the part of his contemporaries. But alongside Christ's
suffering Simeon sets the vision of Mary's heart pierced by the sword,
thus uniting the Mother with the sorrowful destiny of her Son.
In this way, while the venerable old man foresees the growing
hostility the Messiah will face, he stresses its repercussion on the
Mother's heart. This maternal suffering will culminate in the Passion,
when she will unite with her Son in his redemptive sacrifice.
Following an allusion to the first songs of the Servant of the Lord
(cf. Is 42:6; 49:6), cited in Luke 2:32, Simeon's words remind us of the
prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Is 52:13; 53:12), who, " wounded
for our transgressions" (Is 53:5), "makes himself an offering
for sin" (Is 53:10) through a personal and spiritual sacrifice
which far exceeds the ancient ritual sacrifices.
Here we can note how Simeon's prophecy allows us to glimpse in Mary's
future suffering a unique likeness to the sorrowful future of the
3. Mary and Joseph are astounded when Simeon proclaims Jesus as a
"light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Lk 2:32). Mary,
instead, with reference to the prophecy of the sword that would pierce
her heart, says nothing. Together with Joseph, she accepts in silence
those mysterious words which predict a deeply sorrowful trial and
situate the Presentation of Jesus in the temple in its most authentic
Indeed, according to the divine plan the sacrifice offered then
"according to what is said in the law of the Lord, 'a pair of
turtle-doves, or two young pigeonsí" (Lk 2:24), prefigured the
sacrifice of Jesus, "for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt
11:29); in it the true "presentation" would be made (cf. Lk
2:22), which would see the Mother associated with her Son in the work of
Mary was to share in her Son's saving mission
4. Simeon's prophecy is followed by the meeting with the prophetess
Anna: "She gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were
looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). The faith and
prophetic wisdom of the old woman who nurtures the expectation of the
Messiah by "worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day"
(Lk 2:37), offer the Holy Family a further incentive to put their hope
in the God of Israel. At this particular moment, Anna's behaviour would
have appeared to Mary and Joseph as a sign from the Lord, a message of
enlightened faith and persevering service.
Beginning with Simeon's prophecy, Mary intensely and mysteriously
unites her life with Christ's sorrowful mission: she was to become her
Son's faithful coworker for the salvation of the human race.