Father Callan’s Commentary on Luke 2:22-40 for the Feast of the Presentation
Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2012
22. And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord:
23. As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord:
24. And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons:
After the days of her purification, etc. ; i.e., on the fortieth day after the birth of her son. According to the Law of Moses (Lev 12:1-6), a mother remained “unclean” forty days after the birth of a male child, and eighty days after the birth of a female child; at the end of these periods, she was to present herself in the Temple, to be purified by certain ceremonies.
Another enactment of the Law (Lev 12:6-8) required a mother at her purification, to offer in the Temple to the priests a lamb, one year old, for a holocaust, and a turtle-dove, or young pigeon, for a sin offering, provided the parents were rich; if the family was poor, two turtle doves, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust and the other for a sin offering, were to be offered. As the Blessed Virgin was poor, she made the second offering.
According to a third enactment of the Law (Exod 13:2; Num 18:15), the child, if a first-born, belonged to God, and was to be a priest of the family, unless redeemed by an offering of five shekels.
25. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.
Waiting for the consolation of Israel; i.e., waiting for the Christ, the Messiah, who was expected to be the Saviour and consoler of Israel.
The Holy Ghost was in him, — rendering him pleasing to God through sanctifying grace, and endowing him with the gift of prophecy.
26. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.
An answer here means an interior assurance. The Christ of the Lord; i.e., the Messiah.
27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law,
And he came by the Spirit into the temple; i.e., under the direction and inspiration of the Holy Ghost he came to the Temple.
28. He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:
And blessed God; i.e., he thanked the Eternal Father for having fulfilled His promise by giving to the world a Redeemer.
29. Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace;
Here begins the Canticle of Simeon, the third canticle of the New Testament.
Thou dost dismiss thy servant, — literally, “Thou dost loosen or dissolve
(απολυεις) thy servant.” The meaning is, that, since Simeon had lived to see the Christ, he was willing that God should take him from this world.
According to thy word in peace; i.e., according to Thy promise. Simeon thought the fulfillment of the promise that he should live to see the Christ, implied the further promise to call him to his reward.
30. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation,
Thy salvation; i.e., the Only-begotten Son of God, who in Scripture is often called “Salvation.” Cf. Gen 49:18; Isa 33:2; Ps 51:14.
31. Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples:
Before the face of all peoples; i.e., for all Jews and Gentiles alike, to all of whom our Lord was to be a Saviour.
32. A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
A light to the revelation of the Gentiles . . . glory of thy
people, etc. Our Lord was a light to deliver the Gentiles from the darkness of sin and ignorance, and He was also the glory of the Jewish people, among whom He was bom, among whom He preached, worked miracles and passed His earthly life.
33. And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him.
Were wondering. Mary and Joseph wondered at the prophecy of Simeon and doubtless also at many of the details of our Lord’s future mission which Simeon pointed out. They knew very well that their child was the Son of God, but all the details of His ministry, especially in regard to the Gentiles, even His mother most likely did not know.
34. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted;
And Simeon blessed them. From this some believe Simeon to have been a priest; but it is improbable that he was, otherwise St. Luke would have told us so. The blessing Simeon gave Mary and Joseph was, therefore, that which it was customary for venerable and holy men to confer.
This child is set for the fall, etc. The Saviour was directly intended by Almighty God to raise many in Israel from a state of sin and ignorance; He became at the same time the occasion of the fall and ruin of many, who through their own perversity rejected Him and His doctrine.
And for a sign, etc. Our Lord was not only a sign, but He was in reality a Redeemer and a Saviour; but there were to be many who by their own obstinacy would make Him the opposite in their regard.
35. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
A sword shall pierce. Simeon is here prophesying the dolors (i.e., sufferings) which Mary in future was to suffer as a consequence of the future sufferings, Passion, and death of her divine Son.
That out of many hearts, etc. Some connect this clause with the end of the preceding verse, in which case the meaning would be, that our Lord was to be the cause or the occasion of making manifest what were the thoughts and dispositions of many in Israel; some, like Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Zachary, Elizabeth, the Apostles, etc., would show the sincerity of their thoughts and sentiments, by welcoming the advent and the teachings of the Messiah; others, like the Pharisees, would deceitfully plot against and reject Him. Other commentators, however, connect the above words with the preceding clause; and for them the meaning would be that the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin would be the cause of producing in the hearts of many a belief in her Son.
36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity.
Anna means “grace.” She was far advanced in years, about eighty-four years old (verse 37).
Seven years from her virginity; i.e., she had been a virgin up to the time of her marriage, and had thereafter lived seven years in the married state. She was fifteen years old when married.
37. And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day.
Who departed not from the temple, etc. These words simply mean that a great part of her time was spent in the Temple.
38. Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel.
Coming in, — rather “coming up” (επιστασα) towards the Holy Family from the place she had been occupying in the Temple. Anna’s confession was the second testimony to our Lord’s Divinity given at His presentation in the Temple.
30. And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.
They returned into Galilee. St. Luke makes no mention of the visit of the Magi and of the flight into Egypt, perhaps because these events had already been treated by St. Matthew. St. Luke does not say just when the Holy Family went to Nazareth, he merely wishes to state that whereas our Lord had been born at Bethlehem, He afterwards had His home at Nazareth. It is also probable that St. Luke knew nothing about the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt. See on Matthew 2:1.
40. And the child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in him.
Child grew . . . full of wisdom. Our Lord progressed physically as did other children, thereby proving the reality of His human body. He also appeared externally and in the sight of man to advance in wisdom and knowledge, but internally He could have no increase in knowledge, because from the first moment of His Incarnation “in him were hidden all the treasures of wisdom,” etc. (Col 2:3). Experimentally, however, there was progress in our Lord’s knowledge.