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MANKIND’S SALVATION HISTORY THROUGH THE HOLY ROSARY: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES “PRESENTATION” AND “FINDING THE LOST CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE”

THE BOYHOOD OF JESUS CHRIST

“In accordance with Jewish law the Child born of Mary was circumcised on the eighth day after His birth. In this way He became legally a member of the Chosen People of God. Though He was, as the prophet Zacharias says, ‘the angel of the covenant,’ nevertheless He submits to the Law of Moses. By undergoing the rite of circumcision He binds Himself to God and to a communion with the Chosen People of God.

THE PRESENTATION IN THE TEMPLE

It was also in obedience to the Law of Moses that Mary herself went to the Temple to offer two turtle doves or two young pigeons for her own legal purification. On the same occasion Mary and Joseph consecrated the Boy Jesus to god as the Mosaic Law prescribed.

SIMEON IN THE TEMPLE

As Mary and Joseph entered the Temple precincts with the Child Jesus they were met by an aged man called Simeon. It had been revealed to him that he should not die until he had seen the Christ of the Lord. When he saw the Child Jesus in Mary’s arms he was filled with the Spirit of God and he took the Child into his own arms and said:

THE ‘NUNC DIMITTIS’

‘Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and a glory for thy people Israel’ (Luke 2:29-32).

‘THY SOUL A SWORD SHALL PIERCE’

The aged Simeon is filled with the spirit of prophecy and he sees that the Child will bring God’s blessings not only to the Chosen People of Israel but also to the other nations of the world. But he foresees not only glorious things. He foresees also pain and tragedy. Turning to Mary he says: ‘Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed’ (Luke 2:34-35).

ANNA IN THE TEMPLE

At the same time a holy widow named Anna approached the Child. Moved also by the Spirit of God, she recognised Him as the Saviour of the world. To all who were interested in redemption she cried out that this Child was the long-awaited Deliverer.

MYSTERIOUS

From the very beginning then the Child Jesus appears as a mysterious figure. He will be a glory to His own race, to Israel. He will bring the light of divine truth to the Gentiles. He will bring redemption and deliverance to the world. But He will also be contradicted by many, and so He will cause many to rise in redemption while others, contradicting Him, fall.

THE THREE MAGI

Some time after the dedication in the Temple occurs the incident of the Magi. We do not know for certain who the Magi were. The early Christians believed them to be priests of the Persian religion. Some have thought that they came from Arabia. Others hold that they were kings from the East. It seems probable that they were at least men who were aware of the Messianic expectations of the Jews. They knew that the Jews were expecting the advent of some great king.

KING HEROD BECOMES VERY SUSPICIOS

Having observed in the sky a new star (perhaps a comet), they associated this new star with the coming of the expected king to Israel. Following the star, they arrived in Jerusalem and inquired the whereabouts of the new-born king. The news of their quest reached the ears of Herod the Great. Herod was always suspicious of plots to seize his throne and, no doubt, saw in these inquiries the result of some plot to dethrone him. He sent for the Magi. On learning the nature of their mission he sent for the chief priests and the Scribes and asked them where the expected Messias was to be born.

BETHLEHEM, ROYAL DAVID’S CITY

The priests and the Scribes, who were well versed in the Sacred Books of Israel, remembered the prophecy of Micheas [Micah] and told the king: ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written through the prophet, ‘And thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Juda, art by no means least among the princes of Juda; for from thee shall come forth a leader who shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, cf. Micah 5:2).

Herod told the Magi where the Child might be found. He also asked them to bring word to him when they had found the Child so that he also might go to worship Him.

WARNINGS

GOLD, FRANKINCENSE AND MYRRH

The Magi went to Bethlehem and found the star standing over the place where the Child was. They worshipped the Child, giving Him presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh. While they slept later, they were warned by God not to return to Herod.

THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT

After their departure Joseph was also warned in a dream to take the Child and to flee into Egypt because Herod intended to kill the Child. Heeding the warning, Joseph, Mary and the Child fled into Egypt.

THE HOLY INNOCENTS

Herod, when the Magi did not return, was very angry. He sent his soldiers to Bethlehem with order to kill all male children two years old or younger they might find there. In this way he hoped to destroy any possible threat to his own rule.

THE HOLY FAMILY RETURNS FROM EXILE

After Herod’s death in 4 B.C. an angel told Joseph in a dream that there was no longer any danger to the Child and they might return in safety to their own land. Joseph, thus counselled by the angel, returned with Mary and Jesus to their homeland and to Nazareth. In this way God Himself created a parallel between the history of Jesus the Saviour and the history of the Chosen People. As God had called them out of the land of Egypt, so He also calls His Son out of Egypt. St Matthew noticed this resemblance long ago and wrote that in this way there was ‘fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ ‘ (Matthew 2:15; cf. Hosea 11:1).

THE HIDDEN LIFE

It was at Nazareth that Jesus spent the most of His life. Very few details of the early life of Jesus are known to us. St Luke tells us that at Nazareth the Child grew and became strong. He was full of wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him.

JESUS AGED TWELVE GOES MISSING

It is also St Luke who tells of one significant incident in the early years of Jesus. When Jesus was twelve years of age He went up to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the feast of Passover. When Joseph and Mary were returning to Nazareth they discovered that Jesus was not with the caravan. They went back to Jerusalem to seek Him.

THE FINDING OF THE CHILD JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

On the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers of the Law. As St Luke tells us, Jesus was listening to the doctors of the Law and asking them questions, and in His turn answering the questions put to Him. The bystanders were astounded at His answers.

It is permissible to see here a manifestation of the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus. It is not necessary, and it might even be degrading to Jesus, to imagine that He was deliberately displaying His knowledge to the discomfiture of the learned doctors of the Law gathered in the Temple. It is enough to note that at the age of twelve Jesus appears sufficiently versed in the Law of Moses to speak intelligently and impressively to those who were expert in their interpretation of the Law.

‘MY FATHER’S BUSINESS’

What is more important is the fact that on this occasion Jesus shows that He is aware of the fact that He is to perform a great work for God, His Father. When Mary says to Him, ‘Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold, thy father and I have been seeking thee and sorrowing,’ Jesus answers: ‘How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ (Luke 2:48-49).

A PUZZLING ANSWER

This answer must have seemed strange to the rabbis with whom Jesus had been conversing. It was not understood, as St Luke tells us, by Mary and Joseph. If it were only the answer of a very clever boy who enjoyed the experience of conversing on equal terms with the venerated exponents of the Law of Moses, then it would bear an air of unfilial smartness. But St Luke – even Jesus Himself – seems to be saying something more than this. He speaks of the affairs of God as ‘my Father’s business.’ This seems to intimate that Jesus is aware of the fact that He is, in a special way, the Son of God.

HOMELY AND SIMPLE IMAGES

Yet, despite His consciousness of His special relation to God the Father, St Luke tells us that after this incident Jesus returned with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and was subject to them. At Nazareth Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

It is proper to suppose that at Nazareth Jesus showed the same interest in learning the Law of Moses as He had shown in the Temple at Jerusalem. Moreover it is most probable that He learned the craft of carpentering, which was the trade followed by Joseph, His foster father. Like the other people of the locality He probably spoke Aramaic, the language of the region, and possibly Greek and Hebrew. Nazareth was situated in a region of farm labourers and vine dressers. Later on we find Him associated with fishermen in Galilee. From all these sources He later drew the homely and simple images which He used with such telling effect in His parables.

Thus, for some thirty years Jesus lived in a small village waiting for the moment appointed by God His Father for the beginning of the work of redemption.”
– Martin J. Healy, 1959

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MANKIND’S SALVATION HISTORY THROUGH THE HOLY ROSARY: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES “ANNOUNCIATION” AND “VISITATION”

MATERIALLY A ‘GOLDEN AGE’

“To the people of the ancient Roman empire it may have seemed as if the establishment of the empire would bring to mankind a golden age in the history of man. From Parthia in the East to Britain in the West the power of Roman arms and the shrewdness of Roman diplomacy had brought that order in tranquillity which is peace. And with peace had come prosperity and culture.

EMPERORS WERE WORSHIPPED AS GODS

In accordance with the belief of the times the blessings of peace were attributed to the ruler, to the emperor of Rome. People were accustomed to consider the ruler as in some way descended from or related to the gods. In virtue of this close relationship to the gods the ruler was the source of all the prosperity of his people.

In such a climate of belief it was natural enough that both the people and the rulers themselves should regard a ruler as himself a god. The Ptolemies of Egypt held themselves as the direct descendants of the gods. Antiochus IV, of the Seleucid dynasty in Syria and Palestine, had called himself Epiphanes, that is, ‘God manifested.’ The Roman emperors, from Augustus Caesar on, were worshipped as gods.

THEY BELIEVED THAT THE GODS WERE SMILING ON THEM

The vast extent of the Roman Empire, its enormous wealth, the clear rationality of its Hellenistic culture, the stabilising influence of Roman law, all these, combined with the popular belief in the divinity of the emperors, must have nourished in the minds of men the thought that the gods were smiling on mankind, the idea that God, or the gods, was with men, bringing in an era of beneficient peace.

OF DEEPER SIGNIFICANCE

In a sense the people of the Roman Empire were right, and in a sense they were wrong. Peace was being ushered into the world of men, but it was not simply the political and economic peace which they were consciously experiencing. God was with men, but the emperor was not the God in question. God was smiling upon men, but His smile was much more significant than they imagined.

THE ONE AND TRUE GOD WAS COMING THROUGH THE UNIVERSALLY DESPISED JEWS

Rome and its emperor and the peace and prosperity they brought were only secondary elements in the great drama of human history. Strangely enough, the peace of God and God Himself were coming to all men, not in Rome or in the person of the emperor, not through the most peaceful nor the most powerful elements of the empire, but through and in the Jews, the most turbulent and the most universally despised group within the empire.

THE PRINCE OF PEACE ARRIVES UNEXPECTEDLY

That the blessings of true peace would come to the world through the Jews was not, of course, an idea unfamiliar to the Jews themselves. Their faith in Jahweh had led them to. Expect it to come to pass. But to the Gentile world of the empire it would have seemed absurd. Yet this was God’s design, and it came to pass in the time of the Roman Empire. Moreover, it came to pass in a way that was surprising and unexpected both to Jews and to Gentiles alike. So surprising and so unexpected was it that the most startling reversal of roles in history took place; the Jews who had awaited it refused it, and the Gentiles who had not expected it ultimately accepted it.

A MOST STARTLING REVERSAL OF ROLES

It is this coming of God’s peace to all men which we must now examine in its historical circumstances. Its coming was in this wise.

A PIECE OF ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ NEWS

In the days of Herod the Great, King of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zachary. He was married to Elizabeth, also a descendant of Aaron. They were old and childless. One day while he was burning incense to Jahweh in the Temple at Jerusalem, an angel of God appeared to him and said: ‘Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard: and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son. And thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness: and many shall rejoice in his nativity. For he shall be great before the Lord and shall drink no wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias: that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people’ (Luke 1:13-17).

JOHN THE BAPTIST’S FATHER DID NOT BELIEVE THE ANGEL

Because of the advanced age of himself and his wife, Zachary was loath to believe this. For his lack of faith the angel Gabriel struck him dumb until the birth of the child.

MEANWHILE, IN THE COUNTRYSIDE…

[THE FIRST JOYFUL MYSTERY: THE ANNUNCIATION]

Meanwhile, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy the angel Gabriel again appeared, this time to a virgin named Mary who was espoused to Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, of the House of David. ‘Hail, full of grace,’ he said to her, ‘the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women… Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father: and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end’ (Luke 1:28-33).

A SIGNIFICANT QUESTION

Mary replied to Gabriel: ‘How shall this be done, because I know not man?’ (Luke 1:34). Now, since Mary was betrothed to Joseph, a descendant of King David, and so could in the natural course of events have expected to bear children who would be descendants of David, this question might seem very naïve. But we must remember that we are here concerned with a divine communication to a person apparently highly favoured by God, a virgin ‘full of grace,’ a virgin who is destined to be the mother of the ‘Son of the Most High.’ It would be naïve to suspect her of such childish naivete.

PIOUS VOWS OF VIRGINITY WERE NOT UNCOMMON AT THE TIME

It seems more likely, as theologians tell us, that Mary had made a vow of virginity and wished, if it were not against the will of God, to keep the vow. Hence her question really meant, ‘How shall this be done, since I have vowed not to know man?’

It is true that Mary was betrothed to Joseph and intended to marry him. We must, therefore, suppose that Joseph (perhaps in common with the ideas of the Essenes, a Jewish sect of that time) was of the same mind as Mary in this matter of virginity and intended to practise virginity with her in the married state.

GOD HAD NO INTENTION OF ASKING HER TO GIVE UP HER VOW

In his reply to Mary the angel Gabriel revealed to her that God had no intention of asking her to give up her vow of virginity. Instead God would bring her to conceive without the agency of any man: ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee. And therefore also the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:35). Her child, then, is to have no father but God.

A DIVINE SIGN

Though Mary had asked for no divine sign that this mysterious conception and birth-giving might come to pass, nevertheless the angel gives her a sign: ‘And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her that is called barren. Because no word shall be impossible with God’ (Luke 1:36-37).

MARY’S ‘FIAT’

At that moment there took place the most momentous free decision ever made by any human being. Mary, the virgin of Nazareth, consented to be the mother of the ‘Son of the Most High.’ ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord,’ she said, ‘be it done to me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38).

EVERY JEWISH PERSON KNEW THE PROPHECIES ABOUT THE AWAITED MESSIAH

Whether or not Mary knew the complete identity of the Child Who became flesh in her womb at that moment, this much at least she must have realised, that He was the Messias, the Anointed One of Israel. Had not the angel told her to call her son Jesus, that is, Jahweh is a saviour? Had not the angel called him the ‘Son of the Most High’ and the ‘Son of God’? Had Gabriel not said that Jesus would inherit the throne of David His father? Had he not said that the reign of Jesus on the throne of David would be eternal? Who could this Jesus be but the Promised One of Israel? Might not Mary have thought at that moment of the words of Isaias [Isaiah]: “For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace. His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace. He shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom: to establish it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this’? (Isaias 9:6-7).

‘BLESSED ART THOU THAT HAST BELIEVED’

[THE SECOND JOYFUL MYSTERY: THE VISITATION]

The impression that something extraordinary, something marvellous is happening is strengthened by what follows after this mysterious interchange between God and the Virgin of Nazareth. Mary, moved no doubt by a concern for her aged cousin Elizabeth who, according to the words of Gabriel, was already six months with child, went with haste to the town of Juda in which her cousin lived. When she entered the house of Elizabeth, her cousin, filled with the spirit of God, cried out: ‘Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord’ (Luke 1:42-44).

JOHN THE BAPTIST FELT JESUS CHRIST’S PRESENCE

Under the inspiration of God Elizabeth realised both that Mary was with child and that the child was, in some way, her Lord. Moreover, Elizabeth’s own child in the darkness and silence of her own womb felt himself in the presence of One Who would bring joy to the world, and so he stirred in exultation because of this wondrous presence.

THE MAGNIFICAT IS SPOKEN FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER

Mary, in her turn, was filled with the spirit of God and she spoke that wonderful acknowledgement of God’s design which the world has since known as the ‘Magnificat.’

THE MAGNIFICAT

‘My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his hand-maid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty hath done great things to me: and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation to generations, to them that fear him. He hath showed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things: and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy. And he spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and his seed forever’ (Luke 1:46-55).

In this paean of praise to God Mary manifests her understanding of the wonderful things which God is preparing for mankind. She knows that through her, God is in some way fulfilling the promises He made to Abraham and his seed forever. She knows, too, that God’s blessings come only to those who fear Him. She realises that God is so mighty that He will accomplish His designs through her own self, through the humility of her own child, in the face of the mighty ones of this human world.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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