Luke’s account of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple is a celebration of ritual. Five times Luke mentions that the parents of Jesus followed the ritual prescriptions of the Law, making clear they were observant Jews.
Purification was necessary because of the belief that the life-power within blood was sacred and belonged to God and had to be kept separate from the secular. When it could not, people and things that came into contact with the blood had to be purified. The redemption of the 1st born male was the reclaiming the child who, they believed, really belonged to God. Buying the baby back through sacrifice acknowledged God’s prior claim.
Luke says that the Holy Spirit was upon Simeon like the prophets of old, and Anna was a prophetess. Simeon and Anna did not belong to the formal personnel of the Temple, but they were the ones to recognize the divinity of Jesus, showing that religious insight does not necessarily come with official position but with true fidelity and genuine devotion.
The Holy Family, having fulfilled all the prescriptions of the Law finally return home to Nazareth where the child grew, and became strong, filled with wisdom; and like his mother Mary, the favor of God was upon him.
We must consider this feast within its proper context and placement. It is celebrated on the Sunday after Christmas and so becomes another opportunity to consider the implications of the Incarnation: that Jesus is both Son of God and Son of Mary.
So, this feast is not a pious devotion where we can say, “That’s nice”, and quickly forget. Today’s readings remind us of how fully human are the origins of that mystery, rooted in a families willing to make God’s will first in their lives like Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Mary, and I pray, us, too.
Like Mary, we and others have to ponder, pray over, and daily believe ever more deeply that Jesus is indeed the Savior of all.