“Behold, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to the temple.” (Malachi 3:1)
The book of Malachi was written after the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Zerubbabel, probably in the 5th century BC, when Judah was without a king and ruled by a governor (Malachi 1:8). Malachi was the last of the Twelve Minor Prophets and his name means ‘messenger’. In his book, he wrote about acceptable worship, marriage, as well as the Messiah’s visit to the rebuilt temple.
God announced through Malachi: “Behold, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to the temple, as well as the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight. Indeed he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (Malachi 3:1) This message spoke of the coming of two figures – a messenger to prepare the way, and then the Lord himself.
This first part of this prophecy, of an advance messenger, was fulfilled through the mission of St John the Baptist. Referring to St John, Christ said: “This is the one about whom it is written: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” ” (Luke 7:27) St John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of Christ, by calling them to repentance.
The second part of this prophecy, of God visiting his temple, came to pass shortly after Christ was born. In keeping with the Law of Moses, he was presented at the temple by his parents forty days after his birth (Luke 2:22-35). Christ would then go on to regularly visit the temple throughout his life, to worship, preach and teach (Luke 2:41-43; 19:47; 20:1; John 2:13-15; 7:14).
This neo-iconic painting of the Presentation of Christ at the temple hangs within Our Lady of Peace, Burnham. It was painted by the artist Peter Koenig and forms part of a larger artwork of scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. In this image, we see the Virgin handing over the child Jesus to Simeon, pictured here as a temple official. Mary is seen clutching a basket of turtle doves, the customary temple offering for poor families.
Simeon spoke to the Virgin about how she would suffer by witnessing Christ’s crucifixion, using the image of a symbolic sword that would pierce her soul. This explains the rather shocking imagery used here of the Christ Child piercing her through with a crucifix-shaped sword. It reminds us that Christ came to earth to die for our sins.
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