Home and the Joyful Mysteries II
In my first post I described something I had never noticed before about the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary – that they all seem to present the idea of home in profound ways.
I was particularly attuned to this idea because I had been looking for a house to rent with a few friends with no success.
The day after praying that rosary, by the way, we got a house!
4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – God’s House
The Gospel of Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem after his circumcision to present Him to the Lord. The Temple was the house of God, the locus of His presence. In the Holy of Holies rested the Ark of the Covenant. So it was God’s earthly home, and the home of His people.
The Jews made yearly pilgrimages to the temple to celebrate the Passover. They remembered their own ancestors’ search for home after being freed from slavery in Egypt. Is that not what the Promised Land was really about? It was to be a place of belonging for the Israelites.
The Psalms speak of the temple with such longing:
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (Psalm 84:10)
Even our word “nostalgia” comes from the Greek nostos, which means homecoming. That’s what Odysseus’ complex, wandering journey was all about. Interestingly, the other part of the word, algos, means “pain” in Greek. So although we have diluted the use of the word in English to a mere sentimentalism, it’s original meaning expresses the fourth mystery of the Rosary quite well.
Interestingly, when Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, they encounter Simeon, a mysterious old man who “takes the child in his arms” and prophesies about Jesus’ ultimate destiny as Savior. Simeon tells Mary that “a sword will pierce your heart also” (Lk 2:35). So, although this journey to the Temple is a homecoming in some sense — most profoundly for Jesus, because this is His “Father’s House,” as He will say later — it is an encounter overshadowed by future suffering.
5. The Finding of Jesus in the Temple – God’s house
The fifth Joyful Mystery is very much a sequel to the second. We see Simeon’s prophesy about the sword piercing Mary’s heart coming true already.
The twelve year old Jesus has been missing for three days, and his parents have been searching for him everywhere. Of course they cannot go “home” to Nazareth without him, and in a deeper sense there really is no such thing as home without him. They finally go to the Temple and find him there, astonishing all of the elders and teachers with his understanding.
Mary, although I imagine very relieved, is understandably still very upset: “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Jesus’ response is (at first glance) irritating and (at second glance) rather mysterious: “And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
So already Jesus is defining his home, his identity, with God the Father. He seems to take for granted that Mary and Joseph must realize this. His Father’s house is not Joseph’s house in Nazareth, but here in Jerusalem. But later He will no longer identify the temple as his home, but rather will express his homelessness: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20).
This, of course, is not literally true. The Gospels identify Peter’s house in Capernaum as a “resting place” for Jesus. And I am sure Mary, if she was not always following among her son’s disciples, would always have welcomed him home to the house in Nazareth. But Jesus is expressing a much more profound homelessness here, the homelessness not only of the “Son of Man,” but of all men.
Finally Jesus will predict the destruction of “my Father’s house” and identify this temple with His own body: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Ultimately Jesus Himself is the locus of God’s presence, not a building or tent of any kind. He gives to all of us our true homecoming.