When my firstborn daughter was baptized, Father Michael consecrated her to God through our Blessed Mother. He picked up Hannah — a squalling bundle swathed in layers of white satin - and held her up toward the statue of Mary enthroned above the tabernacle.
This tiny miracle, born on Christmas Day, was a special gift from God after years of prayer and expectant longing. In gratitude, I now offered my precious child back to God. I trusted that Mary would take care of Hannah by interceding for her at the feet of her Son.
In light of this memory, I have often pondered Mary's journey to the Temple after the birth of Jesus. Here, we see Mary as the "beholden," the one who belongs completely to God and owes everything that she is to him.
In Christ, who saved her from sin before her conception, Mary offers her best to God in humble gratitude. With upraised hands which bring to life the ancient Hebrew pictograph, Mary invites us to behold her Son.
Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, brings her gift of Immanuel to the holy Temple. Here, the righteousness of the Old Law and the Prince of Peace meet and kiss (Psalm 85.10). In the tabernacle of the Temple lie the stone tablets, representing God's steadfast love and promise of righteousness. In her arms, Mary carries Jesus — the New Law of love whose faithfulness to the Father leads him to the cross.
Mary, the Immaculate One, has no need of ritual purification, yet she lives her Son's obedience with perfect imitation. Here, the Mother leads her Lamb to the place of slaughter where he will offer himself for the salvation of all.
In Mary's posture, we see a shadow of the priest's upraised hands as he offers Christ for us in the Mass. Behold, here is the Lamb of whom the Baptist speaks, "who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1.29). We are called once again to the great mystery of salvation as Mary obediently presents her perfect gift in the Temple.
At the Presentation, Simeon takes the Holy Child from his Mother's arms as he praises God with the words "for mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2.30). Simeon also foretells the sword that will pierce Mary's maternal soul.
This is the sword of sorrow that causes Mary so much pain during the passion and death of her Son. This is also the two-edged sword of God's word — Jesus himself — who brings division and contradiction into the world.
This same sword opens a window into the "behold" of God's revelation through the lens of Mary's soul. The window widens as the veil is torn which shrouds the prophecies of the Messiah.
Behold Jesus, the Word of God, "living and active . . . discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart," who brings "the fall and rising of many in Israel" (Hebrews 4.12, Luke 2.34). Here is the Mother of the Word, whose soul is pierced by the sword of truth so that we might behold God's love for us in her Son.
If we gaze on Mary with the eyes of faith, we can see our Saviour through the window of her soul. From this most perfect view, "The light for revelation to the Gentiles" shines its saving rays of grace upon the world (Luke 2.31).
If Jesus - the Light of the World — pierces our souls, and the thoughts of our hearts are revealed, will we find ourselves standing obediently before the Lord with Mary? Do we trust God enough to give him what is most dear to us — our loved ones, our wills and our lives?
During Holy Mass, as the priest elevates the Body and Blood of our Lord, join Mary as the Church re-presents Jesus to the Father. With her, pray the words of this old children's hymn with a deeper understanding and renewed reverence:
All that I am, all that I do,
All that I'll ever have I offer now to you.
Take and sanctify these gifts for your honour, Lord
Knowing that I love and serve you is enough reward.
With Mary, we can offer all that we are to God, with our prayers, works, joys and sufferings - united to Jesus on the cross. By giving everything to Mary, our gifts are sure to pass through her as she presents her own self-offering to the Father, through the sacrifice of Christ her Son.
(Anne Marie Posella is a graduate theology student at Catholic Distance University. She educates her children at home and works as an instructor at St. Clair College in Chatham, Ont.)