The Guéranger Blog

Welcome to the Gueranger Blog! You have stumbled across the notebook I use to record my thoughts as I read through Dom Prosper Gueranger's 15-volume set, The Liturgical Year. I do not have any special expertise in liturgy, but I have some general knowledge of Catholic theology and an enthusiasm for Gueranger's magnum opus. Think of it as the Liturgical Year fan site!

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Why was Jesus offered at the Temple?

Canisius | 01 February, 2006 05:24

In his entry for the Purification, Dom Gueranger spends some time meditating on why Mary and Jesus had to submit to these laws. Why did Jesus, the redeemer, need to be redeemed by a dove? Of course, this immediately brings to mind another scene with a dove, when John the Baptizer said, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"

But it would be good to state the reason for these submissions on Jesus' part generally. What follows are my meditations on the subject, for what they're worth.

The nature of the Jewish people was to be the world in concentrated form. In the people of Israel, the world saw its own life played out with heightened drama: humanity was given blessings in Eden, and lost them in a moment; Israel was given very similar blessings at Sinai and then under Joshua, and lost them by a slow descent over centuries. Humanity was given a brief promise that the woman would crush the serpent's head; Israel received detailed and beautiful prophecies that Yahweh would redeem his people from exile. Humanity was subject to the moral law; Israel had a more intense relationship with God, and a more detailed code regarding how to live with the God who is a consuming fire.

When Jesus came to redeem us, he did not simply come as a man. He came as an Israelite, and took his place on the stage of the world's drama. He was not merely subject to the moral law, but was "born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Gal 4:4-5). So he had to fulfill the law perfectly, as no one before him had been able to do (CCC 578). And when he died for all mankind, he not only expiated the sins of humanity, but bore the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). So it is important, I think, that Jesus was subject to the law from his infancy, just as he was fully human from his infancy.

I don't have time just at the moment to look up the law about the redemption of the first-born, but my recollection is this. (Someone correct me if this is wrong!) The original plan was that all the first-born would serve God at the Temple, but after the golden-calf-gate scandal the plan was revised: now the Levites would serve instead of the first-born, and non-Levite parents would "buy back" (redeem) their first-born sons from Temple service by means of an offering. So what Joseph and Mary were "purchasing", so to speak, by their offering was Jesus' freedom from Temple service.

No problem. Jesus wasn't a Levite, and didn't need to serve at the Temple. In fact, he would one day replace the Temple and the levitical office by his own sacrifice. I don't think in this case we have to work through the dilemma of "how come the redeemer needs redeeming", because the redemption in question is not redemption from sin.

If it WERE redemption from sin, we could think of it the same way as we do the Baptism in the Jordan.


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