On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 61: Giving Your All: Part 3

…they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22,24 RSV)

The Feast of Meeting (February 2) is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Church’s Year. The Feast commemorates the fortieth day presentation of the new-born Jesus in the temple. Since the time of Moses, all newborn Jewish males were presented in the temple along with a sacrificial animal. The law required the sacrifice of a lamb in most cases. But: “… if he is poor and cannot afford so much, then he shall take one male lamb for a guilt offering to be waved, to make atonement for him, and a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a cereal offering, and a log of oil; also two turtledoves or two young pigeons, such as he can afford…” (Leviticus 14:21-22 RSV).

When Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, she followed the Jewish laws, and presented Jesus at the temple. The icon of the Feast tells us what was used for the sacrifice at Jesus’ presentation: two turtledoves. Why was not the law kept about the sacrifice of a lamb? For one thing, that sacrifice (of the Lamb of God Himself) would take place later. For another, Mary and Joseph were poor. They did not have enough even to purchase a lamb to give as offering. As the quotation from Leviticus above provides, a pair of turtledoves was an acceptable offering given by the poor.

Even the heart of the Jewish Law recognized that not all could afford to make the most expensive sacrifice. But, for Mary and Joseph, a pair of turtledoves was the most affordable sacrifice they could make.

It is the attitude of the heart that makes the gift valuable. The Mother of God brought only an offering of turtledoves, the acceptable sacrifice of the poor. In her heart she held the Lamb of God – THE sacrifice that would be made on Golgotha a generation later. The Mother of God could not give the treasures of the Magi – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Yet she was not rejected because of the seeming smallness of her gift.

What the Mother of God gave was her all. She gave the required animal sacrifice of the poor. And she gave her only-begotten Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He was her most precious possession. And the Theotokos gave Him back to God. She sacrificed everything she had – for the salvation of the world!

May our sacrificial giving be just that – giving of our all!

This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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