The Purification of Mary
Presentation of Our Lord
According to Old Testament law (see Leviticus 12), a woman who gave birth to a child was required to complete a time of purification. For a male child, this was 40 days, and for a female child this was 80 days. Upon completion, the mother was required to bring an offering to the priest, preferably a lamb along with either a pigeon or a turtledove. However, if she could not afford a lamb, she would simply bring two pigeons or two turtledoves.
Furthermore, according to Old Testament law (see Exodus 13 & Numbers 3 & 8), the firstborn son was to be dedicated to the Lord. This would serve as a reminder to future generation of the final of the ten plagues, the exodus from Egypt, and the Lord’s redemption.
Luke 2 records faithfulness of Mary and Joseph in carrying out these mandates. Mary and Joseph could not afford a lamb, and therefore opted for either two turtledoves or two pigeons for their offering. As they presented Jesus at the temple, they met Simeon, who gave us the words of the Nunc Dimitis, and the 84-year-old widowed prophetess Anna.
In honor of this event early in the life of Jesus, February 2nd is set aside as “The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord.” This feast day is among the most ancient celebrated in the church, dating back to the 4th century. It is always celebrated on the 40th day (inclusive) after the celebration of the birth of Jesus (i.e. Christmas), which is why it is observed on February 2nd.