It is quite natural at Christmas time to reflect upon the role and motherhood of Mary. Unlike certain critics, Catholics would likewise bring her to mind at the crucifixion, to which she and a few others were direct witnesses. While some exegetes would argue that an appreciable amount of time passed between the actual Nativity and the Epiphany, Mary was also a witness to that somewhat peculiar event. Wise men follow a star and come as witnesses for the Gentiles. Shepherds answer the hymn of angels and come to pay reverence as fellow Jews. In other words, the whole world will pay homage to this newborn king, because he will bring about a new kingdom and a new people. Mary is already a citizen of this new order. The one who would go out to the world has the world coming to him. Nothing is said about Mary’s response, even when the astrologers give her Son gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12). Having already received the greatest gift of all, her Son, she welcomes the visitors to encounter him and to be stirred by a new faith. She places no hindrance to their access and like John the Baptizer some thirty plus years hence, recedes to the background. She will always bring others to her Son. Mary never gets in the way but spiritually facilitates our access to Jesus and submits to his authority and power.
Given the holocaust of the holy innocents, the year Jesus was brought to the temple for the presentation probably saw a scarcity of male children. This is not to deny the supernatural agency behind the prophecy of Simeon, only to acknowledge the possible natural surprise. John the Baptizer, himself, was purportedly hidden in a well when the soldiers came seeking the lives of boy children up to two years of age. This legend is interesting because it creates a wonderful parallel with the next time we encounter John, again in water, not hidden to save his life but visible to foster repentance and the saving of souls. John would have caused a similar surprise as a child and many years later as the great voice crying out in the wilderness, some would mistake him for the coming Messiah. The prophet Simeon addresses himself to Mary, recognizing her role as the one who brought Jesus to the temple. Jewish children were dedicated to the Lord. However, in Jesus, the Lord is being dedicated to their redemption, as an expression of God’s will— and from the arms of Mary. He will draw them into a more wondrous intimacy and life in him.