Thoughts for the Week - Fr R Taouk
The Purification in The Temple?
by Fr. Leonard Goffine
Jesus was brought to the temple that He might be offered
to God, who had commanded the Jews to offer their
first-born sons to Him in grateful commemoration of the
destroying Angel having spared their first-born at the
departure from Egypt, when all the first-born of the
Egyptians were slain (Exodus 12). These children had to
be redeemed afterwards by certain gifts (Exodus 13).
This was done on the fortieth day; for according to the
law the mother's impurity lasted for this length of time
after the birth of a boy, after which she went to the
Temple, and in order to be declared purified, made her
offering of purification (Lev. 12).
Was Mary subject to this law of purification?
No, for she had not, like other mothers, conceived in
sin, but she placed herself with her divine Child among
sinners and fulfilled the law by which these were bound.
"Nothing", says St. Bernard, "was impure in her
conception, nothing impure in her birth". Yet, she did
this to give us an example of obedience and true
humility, for she interiorly thought little of herself
and wished externally to be so regarded. This law of the
Jews was given to encourage them to gratitude for the
preservation of the first-born of their ancestors from
the hands of the destroying Angel (Exodus 12). Mary did
not offer a lamb but a pair of doves because she was
poor, and was not ashamed to appear as such before the
From this practice we still retain the reality of the
Churching of women.
In the Jewish law (Lev. 12) women for forty days after
the birth of a boy, and for eighty after that of a girl,
were regarded as unclean and kept out of the Temple, and
required, at the end of that time, to bring a lamb as a
holocaust, and a dove as a propitiatory sacrifice to the
Temple, and be pronounced pure by the prayer of the
Priest. This law does not apply to Christian women,
because the Church has abolished the Jewish ceremonies:
but the Church, nevertheless, permits them to remain
absent from Church for six weeks, or so long as
circumstances may require, after the birth of a child,
in order to take care of their health. The Church
desires that at the end of this time the mother,
following Mary's example, should resort to the Church to
obtain the blessing of the Priest, thank God for her
delivery, offer the child to God, praying with the
Priest for the grace to bring up her offspring in
sanctity and piety. This comprises the Churching of
women, which is a very old and praiseworthy custom and
should not be neglected.