The New Testament prophecy of the climax of Mary’s role as Co-redemptrix comes from the inspired words of Simeon at the Presentation of the infant Lord to the Temple (cf. Lk 2:25-37). It is here, by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 2:26-27), that Mary receives the prophetic message of Simeon foretelling the climactic sharing by the Mother of Jesus in the price of Redemption.

The Virgin Mother, though not truly bound under a law given for an expiation of sin, nevertheless obediently subjected herself to the Mosaic Law. In the Temple she fulfills the duties of ritual purification, offering the “poor offering” of one young pigeon for a holocaust and another for a sin offering. There, too, she offers her male-child to the Lord. (1)

In this great paradox, the Mother and Son, who will offer themselves as the “sin offering” for all humanity at Calvary, enter the Temple humbly and offer a sacrifice for the son who is the redemptive Sacrifice itself. In truth the Mother is offering the “rich offering” of the Lamb, the Paschal Lamb whom the Eternal Father will accept when his “hour” has come; the Lamb who is both Victim and High Priest. (2)

Simeon himself is most likely not a priest, but rather one of the “anawim,” a blessed poor one, faithful to Yahweh and His covenant. He is an old man of prayer and expectation, a simple member of the faithful, a humble voice of the vox populi, awaiting the Messiah in order that he may journey to his eternal home in peace.

The Temple is first and foremost a place of sacrifice. All that takes place during the event of the Presentation is a real and mysterious foreshadowing of Calvary, with the same two public persons, Jesus and Mary. Mary offers the child in perfect obedience to the redemptive decrees of God—at the Temple and at Golgotha—effecting a historical sharing in humanity’s liberation. She performs the offering of the Child to the Eternal Father, joined by the co-offering of herself for the unified goal of Redemption.

“Inspired by the Holy Spirit” (Lk 2:27), Simeon comes into the temple and recognizes the child as the “salvation” (Lk. 2:30) prepared in the presence of all peoples, as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory to thy people Israel” (v. 32). Taking the infant Redeemer in his arms, he proclaims: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples” (Lk 2:29-31). Simeon’s inspired words about the future Redeemer correspond to the meaning of the name given to him by the angel, “Jesus,” which means “God is salvation.” (3) The redemptive mission of the child Jesus was also made known to the temple prophetess Anna, who “gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk. 2:38).

After his extraordinary proclamation the holy Simeon turns his gaze to the Mother of salvation. He blesses them and then prophesies that she too, in virtue of her motherly relation to the sign of contradiction, will experience a life and mission of suffering “with Jesus”: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is rejected—and a sword shall pierce through your own soul, too—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk. 2:34-35).

If the Sign is rejected, then the Mother of the Sign will be rejected. This sorrowful annunciation to her confirms that her intimate sharing in the redemptive work of her Son will be at the price of profound suffering. What mother does not share in the suffering of her son when her son is contradicted? But if her son is the prophesied sign of contradiction (in relation to which all hearts will be “revealed,” either for or against the true Redeemer), then she experiences not merely a moment of pain at the Temple, but a lifetime of pain as the Mother united to the Sign, a Mother suffering “with Salvation.” No greater sacrifice will ever be asked by the Father of all mankind than the one asked of this Son and Mother, with its defining moment at the tree of Calvary. John Paul II tells us:

Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement, on the one hand, confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand, it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful. (4)

Thus this sacrifice begins long before Calvary. Indeed, the sufferings of the Mother begin before the sufferings of the Son. Just as Mary anticipated her Son’s stainless entry into the human family by her Immaculate Conception, so too did the Mother go before her Son in the order of suffering that would lead to the climax of Redemption on the Cross. The coredeeming Mother of the Savior was eternally predestined (5) to sacrifice and suffering in her election by the Heavenly Father. Indeed, Mary anticipated her Son’s suffering at Calvary in her motherly heart. “Where Mary is, Jesus will soon appear;” (6) and for the Child destined to suffer, the Mother must also precede. The Mother always went before the Son in the order of suffering.

Therefore, from the moment of the Presentation, for a period of over thirty years, the Immaculate Heart painfully ponders the prophecy of Simeon, back and forth on different levels of consciousness and concurrent sorrow. From this moment on, her heart is pierced in anticipation due to the knowledge of the suffering awaiting her innocent Child. She will ultimately share the piercing of his Heart, to which hers is indissolubly united. “They shall look on him whom they have pierced” (Jn. 19:37), and the pierced Heart of Mary will “suffer with” the Pierced Heart of Jesus, from which the blood and water of Redemption is destined to flow.

 

Endnotes

(1) Cf. Lev. 12:2, 8.

(2) Cf. Rt. Rev. Aloys Schaefer, The Mother of Jesus in Holy Scripture (trans. from the German by Rt. Rev. Ferdinand Brossart), Frederick Pustet, 1913, p. 186.

(3) Cf. John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, n. 16.

(4) Ibid. Note: Certainly Mary’s knowledge of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, coupled with the words of the angel and Simeon regarding her messiah-son and his mission, made the Mother of Jesus keenly aware of her joint call with her Son in a salvific effort that would be immersed in profound suffering.

(5) Cf. Ibid., n. 3

(6) John Paul II, Papal address at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Alborada, Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 31, 1985, L’Osservatore Romano, March 11, 1985, p. 6.