Forty days ago the priests of the Church made this solemn proclamation: “The 25th day of December, when ages beyond number had run their course, … in the 13th century since the people of Israel were led by Moses from Egypt… in the 194th Olympiad, in the year 752 since the foundation of Rome, in the 42nd year of Caesar Octavian Augustus, the whole world being at peace, Jesus Christ, son of the eternal Father, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea.” Today, the Feast of Our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple and the Purification of his Most Holy Mother, brings the Christmas cycle to its fitting conclusion. You can take down your Christmas trees now. We leave Christmas joy behind to prepare for another 40-day season, the time of Lent, which will begin on the 26th of this month. Our Savior is born; he is presented to God in the temple; he grows in strength and wisdom before men; he carries his cross and dies; he rises from the dead, and he sends his Holy Spirit to build up the Church until his Second Coming. In today’s mystery, the fifth Joyful mystery of the rosary, Joseph and Mary bring their child into the temple, in obedience to the Law of Moses: every firstborn male must be redeemed of his sin by a temple sacrifice. But this child has no sin, nor does his mother. The Redeemer is redeemed in order to redeem the world. It is we who are presented in the Temple today, we who are redeemed at this Holy Mass. His offering renders every human offering to God valid.
The Sons of Levi
No priest but Christ alone can offer “due sacrifice” to God. What I or any other priest offers at this altar is worthless if not placed in the chalice of His Sacrifice. “For He is like a refiner’s fire, the fuller’s lye. He will purify the sons of Levi, … that they may offer due sacrifice to the Lord.” Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, became the first priest of the Old Covenant. All the boys of Levi’s tribe became priests, offering daily sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple. But not every son of Levi was faithful. In fact, no priest but Christ himself is absolutely faithful; no priest but Jesus Christ can offer ‘due sacrifice.’ Some Catholic priests have even become agents of the demonic. Christ came to purify “the sons of Levi,” and we crucified Him. But God’s turned evil to good, because it was precisely on the Cross that Christ established the priesthood of the New Covenant. He, in fact, purified the sons of Levi.
God calls his Catholic priests to fatherhood, to generate spiritual sons and daughters, and that is why a priest dedicates himself to celibacy, to one spouse, to the Church. Evil hates paternity even more than it hates maternity, because God is a Father. Especially in these last times, evil has hamstrung the virility of our men. Atheism has convinced men to surrender their natural powers of generativity. I visited Russian in 2002 and was surprised to see almost no men in the shops, the factories, the churches. “Where are the men?” I asked. “In their rooms drinking,” was the usual reply. Today, in America, few men marry, and fewer have children. “Where are the men?” “They are in their rooms staring at the internet, covered in Cheetos dust.” Few men become priests, and fewer become good priests. How are men using their natural virile powers, their God-given forces of generativity? Evil hates paternity, because God is a Father. Evil focuses all its power on suppressing and ridiculing fatherhood.
Today Christ comes into his own Temple to refine the priests. He restores their paternity of priests who have become lazy and unfaithful the their spouse, Holy Mother Church. He turn the hearts of fathers to their sons. This purification costs Christ his life. Did you think the restoration of paternity would not provoke a backlash among the powers of darkness? “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction—and you yourself a sword will pierce.” He, the exact representation of the Father, does not flinch from the scourges of evil, and neither does his Mother. The survival of the Church today rests upon the shoulders of her priests, and the survival of our culture rests upon the shoulders of its men. He will purify the sons of Levi, and she will be a mother to her priests. There will always be some saints among us, through whom God will work his wonders. Let us be among their number.