Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace, for from thee hath shone forth Christ our God, the Sun of righteousness, Who doth illumine those in darkness. Be glad, thou also, O righteous elder who receivest in thine arms the Deliverer of our souls, Who granteth us resurrection. (Troparion Tone 1)
22 And when othe days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the uconsolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26 And it was xrevealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart
In peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign mwhich shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but sserved God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that tlooked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. (B)
O Thou Who didst hallow the Virgin’s womb by Thy birth and didst bless the hands of Symeon as was meet, by anticipation Thou hast now saved even us, O Christ God. But in the midst of battle grant peace to Thy community, and strengthen the hierarchs whom Thou hast loved, O Thou Who alone lovest mankind. (Kontakion Tone 1)
In the Law of Moses it was stipulated that for forty days after the birth of a boy, the mother of the newborn was ritually unclean (the period of ritual uncleanness was twice as long if the child was female), and that after this period, the mother must offer a sacrifice for the cleansing of her ritual impurity (Lev. 12:1–8). The required sacrifice was a year-old lamb and a turtledove, though if the family was poor, they were allowed to offer a pair of turtledoves as a more inexpensive sacrifice.
Coupled with this sacrifice for cleansing was the sacrifice offered to God for the redemption of the firstborn male. Every firstborn male that opened the womb—whether of man or beast—was holy to the Lord and belonged to Him. If the firstborn was that of a clean animal (such as a lamb), it was sacrificed; if the firstborn was one’s son, it was redeemed with money (Ex. 13:1–15). It would seem that this redemption of Jesus as the firstborn was done at that time also.
Mary and Joseph came into Jerusalem and her Temple to fulfill these sacred rites. (Even though it was the ritual impurity of the mother that was the main focus of the rite, the rites are described as for their cleansing—in the plural—probably mother and Son were considered as a unit.) The Holy Family would have stood at the Nicanor Gate, peering from the Court of Women into the Court of the Israelites with its altar within. After the morning offering of incense, an officiating priest would have approached them, received the turtledoves from their hand, and offered them in sacrifice, afterward receiving from them the customary five shekels paid for the redemption of the firstborn.
St. Luke mentions these details (the phrase the Law is mentioned three times in as many verses) to emphasize the piety of Christ’s parents (compare a similar emphasis regarding the parents of His Forerunner in 1:6) and to show how Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant. The firstborn was always considered as “holy to the Lord,” and this was a prophecy of Christ, the Firstborn of all creation. He truly was holy to the Lord, and it was His holiness and priesthood that were foreshadowed by all the holy priests and firstborn who had gone before Him. (A)
(A) Farley, L. R. (2010). The Gospel of Luke: Good News for the Poor (pp. 64–65). Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Publishing.
(B) The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Lk 2:22–40). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 11,12 NKJV)