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THE PURIFICATION OF THE VIRGIN MARY.
THIS Festival is kept in memory of the Presentation of Christ
in the Temple. For it was a precept that " every male " that openeth the womb”-every first-born son—" should “ be holy unto the Lord.”—(Exod. xiii. 2--15.) The first-born of the cattle were to be reserved for sacrifices for God: and the first-born children were to attend in the service of the temple or tabernacle, or were to be redeemed by an offering of money, or sacrifice. (Numb. xviii. 16.) And besides, the mother was obliged to separate herself forty days from the congregation, after the birth of a mile, and eighty after the birth of a female ; and then was to present a lamb, if in good circumstances, or a couple of pigeons, if she was poor. (Levit, xii.) This was exactly performed after the birth of our Saviour, who came to “ fulfil all righteous. “ ness;" and was willing in all particulars of His life, that a just obedience should be paid to the public ordinances of
His religion and country. The Greeks called this Feast by the name of Hypante, or the
Meeting, because Simeon and Anna met our Lord in the temple this day. This festival was celebrated in the Church in the days of St. Chrysostom, anno 898.
LUKE 11, 22, 23, 24.
When the days of her purification, according to the Law of
Moses, were accomplished, they brought Him to Jeru
salem to present Him to the Lord; As it is written in the Law of the Lord, every male that
openetb the womb 'skall be called boly to the Lord; And to offer a sacrifice, according to that wbich is said in
the Law, a pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.
WHAT is called by our Church the Purification
of St. Mary the Virgin, comprizes certain ceremonies prescribed in the Law of Moses. That Law directed that every woman, after child-birth, should, as soon as the days of her purifying were fulfilled, ** bring a lamb of the first year, or if she were not able
to bring a lamb, then she should bring two turtles,
or two young pigeons, unto the door of the taber« nacle of the congregation, unto the priest, who was *** to offer them before the Lord, the one for a burnt* offering, and the otber for a sin-offering, and make " an atonement for her.” Another ceremony to be observed, was confined to male-children, and among them to the first-born, whom the parents were under an obligation of presenting to the Lord; they afterwards purchased, or redeemed, their child by a sum of moHey, thereby acknowleging that all the first-born were the peculiar property of God. « Sanctify unto me, said the Lord unto Moses, “ all the first-born, whatso“ ever openeth the womb among the children of Israel,
« both of man and beast; IT IS MINE. Thou shalt 6C sacrifice to the Lord both the first-born of man and " the first-born of beasts, being males; but all the “ first-born of thy children thou mayst redeem." In these several ceremonies consists, in my judgment, the whole meaning of the feast we this day celebrate. The exposition of so remarkable a custom, accompanied with some brief reflections, may, by divine assistance, produce edification to your hearts, as well as information to your understandings.
Let us, briefly, consider some of the circumstances previous to the presentation of Christ Jesus in the temple.
We are first to observe, that the angel announced to His mother, that, “ having found favor with God, “ she should conceive and bring forth a son, who “ should be great, and should be called the Son of " the Highest;", and who should be born contrary to the ordinary law of the children of Adam: no sooner was the Blessed Jesus born, than the shepherds, who heard the heavenly host praising God, went to Beths lehem to see the thing which was come to pass, " which the Lord had made known unto them. And “ when they had seen it, and had made known abroad « what was told them ; when all wondered, Mary kept “ all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” Notwithstanding her exemption from the general lot of women, she submitted to the law of purification, and offered a sacrifice for a sin-offering. She heard, she observed, she meditated;." she pondered in her heart “ the great things which He who is mighty, had done « to her,” but she neither declared them by her words, nor intimated them by her suggestions. Who would
not have been transported with joy to have heard the good old Simeon express his thoughts, and declare his opinion, of chat holy Child, who, as on this day, constituted all his delight, became his sole hope, engrossed his entire conversation! His mother was content to admire in secret the extraordinary things which were said of her Son, dictated, first, by divine inspiration, and then proclaimed with evangelical rapture. " marvelled at those things which were spoken of « llim." Not that she expressed surprize, as if she were ignorant what He would be, she to whom the angel bad, explicitly, related, that He should be called the Son of the Most High, and that He should sit upon the throne of his father David for ever.
I proceed to shew, further, chat the ceremony enjoined, consisted in a kind of sacrifice, or offering. Now God had ordained two sorts of offerings on the occasion of purification, either of which might be made, agreeably to the injunctions of the Law, and would be, acceptably, received. “When the days of her purify. "ing are fulfilled, she shall bring a lamb of the first
year. But if she shall not be able to bring a lamb, .“ then let her bring two turtles, or two young pigeons.” Turtles or pigeons, in lieu of a lamb, were, usually, the offering of the poor, for whose accommodation the Law seems to have given the choice. Such was the offering made for the King of Heaven!“ A pair of “ turtle-doves, or two young pigeons” ! Whether of azhe two, the Evangelist does not relate. His design does not seem to be to declare, precisely, what offer ing in particular was brought, since he mentions this alternative, « a pair of turtle doves, or two young "pigeons.” Neither does it appear to be his inten
tion to enumerate all the things which might have been offered in that ceremony, in compliance with the ordinances of the Law, since he does not even mention the lamb. What then can be his view ? Is it not to teach us, that it would have been unseasonable to have offered a lamb at that very juncture when the true Lamb of God was brought into the temple, who was to take away the sins of the world?. And does it not farther teach us, that it is not necessary we should know what was the sacrifice offered for our Lord, provided we knew its value, which is to present us acceptable unto God?
What was the condition of Him who came to redeem the world? Never was any one more wretched. Joseph-His father according to the flesh-gained his livelihood by the labor of his hands, and by the exercise of a mechanic art: He himself had not even a place where He could lay His head. Historians, frequently, remark that, at the birth of distinguished personages, certain circumstances have been observed, which were esteemed as presages of what they would be during their life. In the festivals which our Church celebrates, what evidences have we not had of the extreme poverty in which the Son of God passed His days! Who is the child so miserable, whose parents have not some mean habitation at least, where they can protect him from the severity of the weather at the "very moment that he comes into the world?
Jesus, “ despised and rejected of men," is born itt a stable.
Thus was He born, thus did He live, and thus did He die, Was He not interred even in a borrowed sepulchre ? and the clothes in which His sacred person