The parents of Jesus must have felt some apprehension when they brought the Christ Child to present Him to the Lord in the Temple (a feast day we celebrate on February 2nd). Would He be accepted or rejected? Yet, in that moment of clarity and grace, the parents of the Messiah were released from anxiety about Jesus’ future. Although the prophet Simeon confirmed that the Child would be a “sign of contradiction”, the old man also strengthened them with the assurance that He was the promised Savior of His people.
What Will This Child Be?
All new parents ask this question of each of their children when they are born. Babies represent a sort of conviction that the world is not only characterized by evil and pain but is full of possibility, innocence and goodness too. Children are reminders of the hopes parents have for their families and for something better beyond the travails of this life.
But children are also vulnerable, small and fragile. They stir anxieties in the hearts of their parents even as they communicate joy. Each child brings a promise – but not a guarantee. God promises no one certain prosperity or tranquility for the future. All parenting entails a cost as well as a benefit to the world.
So, it would be entirely understandable if the Virgin Mary and Joseph were moved with many conflicting emotions on the day they walked through the sacred spaces of the Temple to the altar in order to fulfill “all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord” (Luke 2:39).
The Holy Spirit Speaks
It was the Holy Spirit who led the elder Simeon to the Temple that day to set his gaze on the holy Messiah of God in the form of a small baby. Let us put ourselves in the place of Mary and Joseph as they heard the wise man praise God very openly and declare that all of God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled through this Child (Luke 2:29-32).
What would a parent think and feel at a moment like that? It is said that Our Lady “kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51) afterward. She must have remembered and pondered that precious moment with a mother’s heart every day of her life.
After that, for Mary and Joseph, the truth of the Child’s nature and calling was not just the subject of a personal visitation from an angel. His identity was confirmed by a holy man who “saw” the truth of God’s plan with the eyes of holiness.
That experience must have freed them from any anxiety about what the future would hold: their Child was fully immersed in a larger plan – and with Him so also were His parents.
Hope Overcomes the Inevitability of Sorrows
But Simeon’s message was not only joy. It contained a warning: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
Here is the major reason why parents feel the anxiety of parenting. The world is a dangerous place. Every mother knows this intuitively as she looks down into the face of innocence resting peacefully in her lap.
Parents only want to protect their children from the ravages of human sinfulness and the problems of the world, but they know they cannot. Mary and Joseph understood this from the beginning and received a bitter dose of that lesson soon afterward as Herod sought to kill the newborn King.
Yet Mary’s hope was in her God. She faced the future with the full conviction that there was a divine purpose to all things that happened in their lives and knew that God would not abandon their little family.
Simeon had brought the parents deep interior peace and a hopefulness that overcame the inevitability of future sorrows.
She Releases Us from Anxiety
One of the Virgin Mary’s beautiful titles is “Our Lady of Hope” because she brings victory over all the anxieties of this life.
Whether we are anxious about children or jobs or relationships or money, Mary helps us. She felt every single anguish that we feel – and perhaps more – because her life was perfectly united to the mystery of God who took on human flesh and embraced all the cares of this world as His own.
Whether we feel the stresses and strains of a busy life or the sharp persecutions that come as a consequence of our faith, Mary is our refuge. She unties the knots of anxiety in our hearts and fills us with the peace that only God can give.
Our Lady of Hope,Our Lady Undoer of knots, hear all of our prayers!
By Peter Darcy
Iconographic source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=presentation+of+jesus&title=Special%3ASearch&go=Go&ns0=1&ns6=1&ns12=1&ns14=1&ns100=1&ns106=1#/media/File:Bellini_Presentation_of_Jesus_in_the_Temple.jpg