A tremendous ray of sunshine burst forth fully adorned in the natural splendor of its Creator’s heat, light and energy. It hurtled forward in perfect obedience to the sun from which it came and landed on earth, leaving in its wake the promised glory of God itself. This glory, this “life was the light of all mankind”. (John 1:4) And from that glory, which came to be known as “the light” came countless, new “human” rays of sunshine. These new rays could do nothing but rejoice in one another, particularly that of the tremendous ray in complete honor and praise of that promised glory of God.
Photo above: Oil-on-panel painting of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, a mix of medieval and Northern Renaissance elements, showing St. Simeon, Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, Baby Jesus, and Anna. It most likely originated as a wing of an altarpiece. Wikimedia Commons
Would one ray of sunshine, were it conscious, looking upon another ray of sunshine, curse or demean that ray? Or, rather, if it could, would it not rejoice in the light of another’s perfect and unique discipline of the sun? So too, we rejoice in the holiness, the goodness, the kindness, the love of God and mankind of others doing the Father’s will. We have cause to rejoice as we bear witness to the mother of “the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star”. (Rev 22:16) Here we encounter and contemplate that tremendous ray we call Mary, Mother of the prophetic Messiah, Jesus Christ, at the scene of his Presentation in the temple. Though the first of Mary’s seven sorrows, it is the least discernable, shrouded, if not in a mystery, in an uncertain, sublime prophecy. Here, we hope to shed some light on this prophecy for the explicit purpose of the salvation of your immortal soul.
The encounter with Simeon and the Holy Family at the Presentation conveys something of a dual prophetic realization and a conundrum of curiosity when Simeon speaks these words, in two basic parts below: the words first addressing the Lord God in thanks and, second, the prophetic words following, addressing Mary:
Luke 2:25-35 quoted excerpts in two parts:
Part 1 -- “Simeon’s Song”: Simeon’s Words of Thanks to God (Luke 2:29-32) 45 quoted words (English translation)
“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.”
Part 2 -- “Simeon’s Prophecy”: To Mary His Mother (Luke 2:33-35) 41 quoted words (English Trans.)
Luke 2: 33-35 And his father and mother were marveling at the things spoken concerning him. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and 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.”
Simeon’s Song is self-explanatory, giving thanks to the Lord God fulfilling the promise of the Holy Spirit in Simeon’s messianic moment at the temple. In Simeon’s Prophecy, the first sentence is apparent and easily understood given the passage of time and events. We know Israel struggled in accepting Jesus, creating what Simeon refers to as “the fall and rise of many.” Understood. And the sign that is contradicted is, of course, the cross: A sign of torture and death in the Roman empire has been, because of Jesus’s resurrection, converted and transformed into a sign of eternal life itself. Again, understood. All discernable, so far.
It’s Simeon’s next sentence to Mary, stated here again:
“And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Photo below: “Seven Swords Piercing the Sorrowful Heart of Mary” in the Church of the Holy Cross, Salamanca, Spain. Wikimedia Commons
How is a soul pierced by a sword? How does Simeon foresee that Mary’s sword-pierced soul will reveal the hearts of many? And reveal them to whom? Was the “sword” Simeon spoke of that of the Roman soldier’s spear in Jesus’ side, confirming his death on the cross? If so, how would this particular event of the crucifixion, in and of itself, reveal “the thoughts of many hearts” vis-a-via Mary’s soul? As Jesus’s mother, we accept that the spear piercing the side of Jesus on the cross would undoubtedly be “felt” in the psychological hyper-empathetic sense by Mary bearing witness to it. So if we accept this event as the “pierce” referenced by Simeon, how does Mary’s pain at the foot of the cross reveal the thoughts of many hearts? [Again, if Simeon is correct in interpreting Mary’s painful witness to the spear piercing Jesus’ side would ultimately reveal “the thoughts of many hearts”, then how?] Being at the foot of the cross, witnessing Her son’s death yet keeping her faith in the Father and Her Son, Mary’s mourning tears of sorrow were three days away from becoming morning tears of joy. Yet, Mary’s experience here does not appear to connect the spiritual dots that Simeon has prophetically spoken.
Mary acknowledges that fear of God brings blessings
Alternatively, is the “sword” Simeon refers to a metaphor for generations of mankind’s cruelty, standing in stark contrast to the love of Christ itself those profess to have? That is, is man’s stated rejection of Mary’s perfect obedience to the Almighty a confirmation (revealing the thoughts of many hearts) of the absence of true love and obedience to His son, Jesus? There’s good reason to fear the Almighty for he knows the innermost workings of our heart and mind -- and what a true confession is that -- it redeems us, putting us back on track to the love of God and mankind, which, of course, is why God created us. Doesn’t Mary herself acknowledge that fear of God brings blessings? “. . . and his mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him”. (Luke 1:50)
If we accept this metaphor as prophecy, that is, Simeon’s prophecy, well, it has come true. (In baseball terms, Simeon is “batting 1,000” - but that average is reserved only for the few under the auspices of the Holy Spirit.) How many times have we stated or received words “that cut like a knife”? Would not a sword be more likened to a knife than a spear? Consider that there are a fair amount of Christians and non-Christians who at a minimum are dismissive of Mary and at a maximum demean her, such that a kind of spiritual misogyny is indicated before our heavenly Father.
Here, consider fearing the Almighty more than you already do. We know Christ existed before time as the Word, “In the beginning” according to John 1:1. We are aware that God in the Word, as all knowing, foresaw his mother before she existed and is referenced in Sacred Scripture (both before and after her earthly existence) as “the woman” in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed…” and again in Revelation 12:1-17, “And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon was under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars.”. Christ on the cross confirms her as such in speaking to mother Mary and the apostle John, “Woman, behold your son.” And to the apostle John: “Behold thy mother.” Basically, Simeon, being with the Holy Spirit (who brought him to the temple to bear witness to Israel’s consolation to the world -- that is God made flesh as man from the House of David) is both warning and affirming future generations of so-called followers of Christ that the love of his mother -- or lack thereof -- will reveal their many hearts and minds to God himself.
And if we behold in Mary, the arc of the second covenant -- that is the “new and eternal covenant,” in the esteem God made her for -- His only begotten Son, wouldn’t any words or thoughts for that matter, that fail to recognize her perfect purity in obedience to the blessed trinity be tantamount to defiling that which God himself has made holy? When we contemplate the arc of the first covenant as holy and Uzzah’s fate for touching, that is, defiling the arc, “God smote him” and Uzzah “died there beside the arc”. (2 Samuel 6:7) So is Simeon, perhaps the last prophet living from Old Testament times and sublimely the first prophet of the New Testament, telling us with his prediction that we are “spiritually dead” if we somehow profess we follow Christ in one breath and draw the sword of our cutting words against His mother in the next breath? Are you afraid yet? I am.
If we look at this from the standpoint of our “ray of sunshine” metaphor above, should we not demean, detract or disprove but rather rejoice in our Blessed Mother’s perfect obedience to God? Mary, as that ray of light, heat and energy, is “the handmaid of the Lord” and is as obedient to the Lord as light is to the sun. If we fail to love and respect the Blessed Mother, we affirm the insincerity of our love of Christ himself. So then, wouldn’t now be a good time to rethink and reflect on our heart’s desire to better follow God’s only begotten Son by also rejoicing in His Mother’s pure love and perfect obedience to God the Father?
Has anyone in Hollywood argued with a Jewish mother?
Now for those who say “I find no fault in Mary but in those that worship her in substitution of Christ,” you are indeed halfway home. Rest assured the only message Mary brings us is to follow her Son, making the substitution scripturally impossible. There is but one Redeemer for the forgiveness of sins, illness and grantor of everlasting life -- that of Christ, for only Christ bore the sins of humanity in the Garden of Gethsemane, suffered, died, was buried and rose again in fulfillment of Sacred Scripture. As Mary has the eternal honor of being Our Redeemer's mother, let us acknowledge that what God has made holy mankind can only attempt to defile -- and this at his or her own spiritual peril, perhaps better referred to here now as “Uzzah’s risk.” Are you willing to take on Uzza’s risk with the second arc of the covenant?
Below (right), poster promoting the 2004 Mel Gibson-directed film “The Passion of the Christ.”
Hollywood -- and companies? A compliment. Two, timeless, blockbuster hits paid righteous and loving homage to both arks. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) both gave audiences added, respectful, insight to God’s glory and loving commitment to mankind. A warning: Recognize you are trifling with other-worldly “unspeakable power” (“Raiders”) at your own spiritual expense if or when less than respectful (blasphemy) treatment is is given to our Lord’s living ark, Mary. Practically speaking, has anyone in Hollywood (or anywhere for that matter) argued with a Jewish mother -- and won? So why start now? Critical to our spiritual salvation is forgiveness. Listen closely to this passage (Matthew 12:31-32):
Therefore I say to you, that every kind of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come.
Jesus protects his mother, full of grace -- that is the Holy Spirit, with these words (as a true loving son will do) and later, at the foot of the cross, Jesus makes Mary the mother of all who come to him. Earlier in his public life Jesus advises, “I tell you on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) Careful, Hollywood!
Taken from the standpoint of purity, is anything less than pure worthy or acceptable to God Almighty? How then can Mary be anything but perfectly pure for all eternity? Perfectly obedient, perfectly pure, a perfect ray of sunshine bursting forth in light, heat and energy. The “woman clothed in the sun”. (Rev 12:1) Fast forward from the Presentation with Simeon to about 1,531 years later to December 12th, 1531, where blessed Mary discloses her name in Mexico to an Aztec elder named Juan Bernardino as the “Perfect Virgin, Our Lady of Guadalupe.” Emphasis here is on “Perfect Virgin.” Those questioning Mary’s perfect, eternal purity should take note of this confirming event and the plethora of miracles associated with the Our Lady of Guadalupe tilma “painting” to this day, notwithstanding the conversion of 9 million pagan souls to the gospel in just 8 years time. (Juan Bernardino, the uncle of now Saint Juan Diego, was healed by Mary.)
In Matthew 22:36, when answering the Pharisees' query, Jesus confirms the greatest commandment of all is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul. Simeon’s prophecy includes the very same three elements whereby many hearts & minds (“thoughts”) are revealed when man’s cutting words (the “sword”) wounds or defiles (“pierces”) the soul of Jesus’ mother. Has Simeon, with these prophetic words, forewarned us all of a sort of spiritual snare for those who attempt to degrade the Blessed Mother? Mary, the arc of the second, new and eternal covenant, is to some the object of degradation, though God himself made her to be “blessed” for all eternity. Is Simeon suggesting Mary’s soul is somehow related to your own soul in that you cannot claim to truly love God with your whole heart, mind and soul if you reject as perfectly pure, Mary, the mother of God’s only begotten son, Jesus?
Mary is recognized as being of a higher order than the angel – ‘Hail’!
Think and reflect for a moment how the angel Gabriel addressed Mary: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” This is something of an astounding encounter, that an angelic spirit of the highest angelic order, living outside the realm of time and space, in the presence of the Almighty, says “Hail” to a woman of flesh and blood. That a woman, living in time, in the world, is, in effect, saluted, recognized as being of a higher order than the angel himself is truly astounding! Still, you might ask how can this be reconciled with Jesus’s words on John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11, which state, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” For at no time in Scripture do we see John the Baptist addressed by angels, but the key here to defining the spiritual hierarchy between John the Baptist and Mary resides in Jesus’s qualifying words on John “born of women.'' Note that we are drawn to Mary’s perfection in her two aspects, that is, born of woman and born of the Holy Spirit -- the Immaculate Conception that created Mary elevates her status to the supernatural-level worthy of Gabriel’s angelic “Hail”!
Now, let us consider who is in attendance at Jesus’ consecration, that is, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Simeon (and perhaps a rabbi or two, though none are mentioned in Scripture). For Simeon, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.” (Luke 2:26) Keep in mind that the three kings left their royal thrones from distant lands to bear witness to Jesus’ birth, and the fourth king, Herod, went to great lengths in acknowledgment of the virgin birth, as well. A messianic buzz was in the air at the time of the Presentation. Simeon’s attendance and words confirm this messianic moment.
Left, “Simon with Jesus” (1669) by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), National Museum, Stockholm.
Some spiritual speculation, if allowed, without adding or subtracting a word of Scripture: Simeon is a rare biblical character who experienced being in the presence of the blessed trinity as they were in the temple, led by the Holy Spirit. There he holds God’s only begotten son, Jesus, in the flesh. In silence are the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the temple with Simeon, Mary and Joseph. With the presence of Anna, the prophetess, in the temple “coming up at that very hour” (Luke 2:38) to the holy family -- the number of God’s perfection, 7, attend the Presentation. That Simeon specifically addresses and assigns such powerful words tying Mary’s pierced soul to the “thoughts of many hearts” recognizes her perpetual holy state into the future, that is, Mary is with the Holy Spirit forever. The Father and Son have willed this from all eternity, that is, “In the beginning” the “woman clothed with the brilliance of the sun” is born both of woman and the Holy Spirit in perfect obedience to God the Father, to deliver Jesus, the means of mankind’s salvation, forever.
Therefore, heed the words of Simeon’s snare and be forewarned to sheath the sword of your tongue when it comes to Mary’s soul. Do not seek to pierce this pure soul with thoughts or words that cut and defile that which God himself has made holy from all eternity. Rather, rejoice in Mary’s great love for the Lord God, the Holy Spirit, her son, Jesus, and, by the spiritual adoption we call grace, your very self!
The lamb of God is returning as the lion of Judah. Are ye prepared?
This commentary was written by Garden City, N.Y.-resident Daniel McLaughlin and edited by Gerry Regan, of Edit360.biz, along with Meredith McLaughlin. For more of Dan’s work, visit his profile and blog here on TheWildGeese.irish.