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Presentation in the Temple

mary infant simeon joseph

Following Jewish law, the Virgin *Mary and Saint *Joseph brought the infant Jesus (as their firstborn male child) to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him to *God and to offer a sacrifice. The event is described in *Luke 2:22-40 and illustrated in several slightly divergent manners in early Christian and medieval art. The earliest extant representation (fifth-century mosaics at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome) depicts Mary holding the infant, accompanied by Joseph and several *angels, walking toward the prophetess Anna and the aged *Simeon, who bows in reverance. Carolingian and Ottonian examples show either Mary or Joseph handing the infant to Simeon in the presence of several witnesses; often an altar is included upon which the infant is placed by Simeon or the high priest. In later examples, attendant figures may be shown holding candles and a basket containing two doves. The doves are, as well, references to the *Purification of the Virgin one month after childbirth (appropriately if creatively often conflated with the scene of the Presentation). Simeon’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah and his prophecy to Mary concerning her upcoming sorrow cause this episode to be counted first among the *Seven Sorrows of the Virgin and hence often included in pictorial narrative cycles of the lives of Mary and Jesus.
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