Thursday, March 09, 2006

Two Turtle Doves...

What does this have to do with the fourth joyful mystery when Mary and Joseph present Our Lord in the temple? And to back it up a step, why did they even bother? Yes, I know it was the custom of the time, but what purpose does the custom serve? Initiating infants into a religion seems to be as old as religion itself. Whether the practice is circumcision, baptism, or dedication - something always appears in the culture to bring a spiritual dimension to a new birth.

If memory serves correctly, when a Jewish infant is "presented" in the Temple, the parents do NOT present their child TO God. They "buy" their child FROM God. In this case, Jesus was bought by his parents from God for a pair of doves. This symbolic transaction teaches us some important realities. First, it reminds us that when children come into our families, God is giving us a gift - we've gotten things backwards if we think we're doing God a favor by giving him our children. Second, it reminds us that children are valuable by making us pay for it (children of course are valuable for their own sake, but having to paying for something is one of the best ways of remembering and demonstrating its worth). Third, God considers our ability to pay when determining our need to pay.

The standard payment in the Law was a more expensive animal but it made provisions for poorer families and allowed them to pay with a pair of doves. Don't be misled by the innaccurate nativity scenes where Wise Men stand beside Shepherds. Joseph and Mary must have been pretty poor and the liquid assets of Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh were still years away from arriving and they certainly were not going to have any chance to use it before reaching Egypt because soldiers were coming to murder the new baby.

The customs the Jewish Law, and the act of buying Our Lord for a pair of doves can teach us much about our relationship with our God and our children.

Stay tuned for: Lost in the Big City

No comments: