Simeonís words and Annaís example at the presentation in the temple
shed light on the role women will have in Jesusí work of Redemption
"The resurrection of many is a marvellous effect of the
Redemption. This proclamation alone kindles great hope in the hearts of
those to whom the fruit of the sacrifice already bears witness",
the Holy Father said at the General Audience of Wednesday, 8 January, as
he focused on the co-operation of women in the work of Redemption. Here
is a translation of the Pope's catechesis, which was the 41st in the
series on the Blessed Virgin and was given in Italian.
1. The words of the aged Simeon, announcing to Mary her sharing in
the Messiah's saving mission, shed light on woman's role in the mystery
Indeed, Mary is not only an individual person, but she is also the
"daughter of Zion", the new woman standing at the Redeemer's
side in order to share his Passion and to give birth in the Spirit to
the children of God. This reality is expressed by the popular depiction
of the "seven swords" that pierce Mary's heart: this image
highlights the deep link between the mother, who is identified with the
daughter of Zion and with the Church, and the sorrowful destiny of the
Giving back her Son, whom she had just received from God, to
consecrate him for his saving mission, Mary also gives herself to this
mission. It is an act of interior sharing that is not only the fruit of
natural maternal affection, but above all expresses the consent of the
new woman to Christ's redemptive work.
Mary will be involved in Jesus' suffering
2. In his words Simeon indicates the purpose of Jesus' sacrifice and
Mary's suffering: these will come about so "that thoughts out of
many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:35).
Jesus, "a sign that will be opposed" (Lk 2:34), who
involves his mother in his suffering, will lead men and women to take a
stand in his regard, inviting them to make a fundamental decision. In
fact, he "is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel" (Lk
Thus Mary is united to her divine Son in this
"contradiction", in view of the work of salvation. Certainly
there is a risk of ruin for those who reject Christ, but the
resurrection of many is a marvellous effect of the Redemption. This
proclamation alone kindles great hope in the hearts of those to whom the
fruit of the sacrifice already bears witness.
Directing the Blessed Virgin's attention to these prospects of
salvation before the ritual offering, Simeon seems to suggest to Mary
that she perform this act as a contribution to humanity's ransom. In
fact, he does not speak to Joseph or about Joseph: his
words are addressed to Mary, whom he associates with the destiny of her
3. The chronological priority of Mary's action does not obscure
Jesus' primacy. In describing Mary's role in the economy of salvation,
the Second Vatican Council recalled that she "devoted herself
totally ... to the person and work of her Son, under and with him,
serving the mystery of Redemption" (Lumen gentium, n.
At the presentation of Jesus in the temple, Mary serves the mystery
of Redemption under Christ and with Christ: indeed he has the principal
role in salvation and must be ransomed by a ritual offering. Mary is
joined to the sacrifice of her Son by the sword that will pierce her
4. The primacy of Christ does not rule out but supports and demands
the proper, irreplaceable role of woman. By involving his mother in his
own sacrifice, Christ wants to reveal its deep human roots and to show
us an anticipation of the priestly offering of the cross.
The divine intention to call for the specific involvement of woman in
the work of Redemption can be seen by the fact that Simeon's prophecy is
addressed to Mary alone, although Joseph also took part in the offering
The conclusion of the episode of Jesus' presentation in the temple
seems to confirm the meaning and value of the feminine presence in the
economy of salvation. The meeting with a woman, Anna, brings to a close
these special moments when the Old Testament as it were is handed over
to the New.
Like Simeon, this woman has no special status among the chosen
people, but her life seems to have a lofty value in God's eyes. St Luke
calls her a "prophetess", probably because many consulted her
for her gift of discernment and the holy life she led under the
inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord.
Anna is advanced in age, being 84 years old, and has long been a
widow. Totally consecrated to God, "she never left the temple,
serving God day and night with fasting and prayer" (cf. Lk 2:37).
She represents those who, having intensely lived in expectation of the
Messiah, are able to accept the fulfilment of the promise with joyous
exultation. The Evangelist mentions that "coming up at that very
hour she gave thanks to God" (2:38).
Staying constantly in the temple, she could, perhaps more easily than
Simeon, meet Jesus at the end of a life dedicated to the Lord and
enriched by listening to the Word and by prayer.
At the dawn of Redemption, we can glimpse in the prophetess Anna all
women who, with holiness of life and in prayerful expectation, are ready
to accept Christ's presence and to praise God every day for the marvels
wrought by his everlasting mercy.
Anna is symbol of women who spread the Gospel
5. Chosen to meet the Child, Simeon and Anna have a deep experience
of sharing the joy of Jesus' presence with Mary and Joseph and spreading
it where they live. Anna in particular shows wonderful zeal in speaking
about Jesus, thus witnessing to her simple and generous faith. This
faith prepares others to accept the Messiah in their lives.
Luke's expression, "she ... spoke of him to all who were looking
for the redemption of Jerusalem" (2:38), seems to credit her as a
symbol of the women who, dedicated to spreading the Gospel, will arouse
and nourish the hope of salvation.