Continuing our reflection on the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, let’s ponder a moment that was glorious in its significance and fulfilment, yet was missed by nearly everyone.
Joseph and Mary had brought Jesus to the Temple to present Him there. As they ascended the glorious steps to the Temple Mount, they were fulfilling a requirement of the Law.
You are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons’’ (Ex 13:12-15).
Although they were fulfilling an obligation, something much more dramatic was taking place. To understand what, we must look back to 587 B.C.
The Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem and the unthinkable had happened: the Holy City of Jerusalem had been destroyed and along with it the Temple of God. Inside the Temple had been housed the precious Ark of the Covenant.
Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a gold-covered box of acacia wood, inside which were the two tablets on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron, and a vial of the manna. Even more important, in this ark dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel; here He was present as nowhere else. This is certainly our belief today regarding the tabernacle in Catholic churches: though present everywhere, God has a true, substantial, and real presence in the Eucharist reserved there.
The Lost Ark – Incredibly, the Ark of the Covenant was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Some thought that Jeremiah had hidden it in the mountains. Others, that the priests had hastily secreted it in the maze of caves beneath the Temple Mount. Still others argued that it was taken to Ethiopia. But the Ark was gone.
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