For Jews, childbirth was considered as a loss of vitality. This loss must be made good by ritual means to reestablish a union with God, the source of life who is present in blood. “If a woman becomes pregnant and gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days … on the eighth day (Christmas to January 1) the foreskin of the child must be circumcised and she will wait another thirty-three days for her blood to be purified (January 1 to Candlemas Day). She will not touch anything consecrated nor go to the sanctuary until the time of her purification” (Lev 12:1-4). After this time, the mother must make a sin offering (a young pigeon or turtledove for the poor) by bringing it to the priest who will offer it as an expiation for her.
In addition to this, “Every living thing that opens the womb, whether of man or of beast, such as are to be offered to the LORD, shall be yours; but you must let the first-born of man, as well as of unclean animals, be redeemed. The ransom for a boy is to be paid when he is a month old; it is fixed at five silver shekels according to the sanctuary standard, twenty gerahs (a small Hebrew coin) to the shekel” (Nu 18:15-16). I think this is the presentation and is perhaps Joseph’s role.
Jesus humbly comes into the temple from among the poorest people. He is unannounced, just like any other child. While Mary did not need to be purified, she did it to follow the will of God’s holy law. After all, Mary never sinned, conceived of a child, Who is God, by the power of the Holy Spirit and gave birth to a child maintaining her virginity. Mary is the epitome of the sage as described by Micah, “You have already been told what is right and what God wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyally and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). John Paul II has called the Presentation of Jesus the Second Annunciation. In the Annunciation, Mary accepts the will of God in obedience. Like all mothers, she does not know fully what to expect of her child. Simeon tells Mary that Jesus’ mission will be one of misunderstanding and sorrow and that Mary’s obedience to faith will be lived in suffering. In many ways the Holy Family’s journey calls to mind our many personal tragedies which allow us to join in compassion with her in the Rosary.