From twelve years old, a Jew was bound each year to keep the three feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. In the liturgy for Christmas-tide the whole of our Lord's childhood is put before us and to-day we see Him in the Temple, where for the first time, He shows the Jews that God is His "Father" (Gospel).
"It was by no accident," says St. Ambrose, "that this Child who, even according to the flesh, was full of wisdom and grace of God, forgetting His human parents should wish to be found after three days in the Temple. By this He intimated that three days after the triumph of His Passion,He who was believed to be dead should rise again and so offer Himself as the object of our faith, seated on a heavenly throne in heavenly glory. The truth is, that in His case, there is a two-fold birth: the one by wnich He is begotten of the Father, the other by which He is born of a mother. The first is wholly divine; by the second He humbles Himself to take our nature" (3rd. Noct.). This "Man sitting upon a High throne whom a multitude of angels adore singing together" (Introit) is, therefore, that Divine Child who is shown to us in to-day's Gospel. "Sitting in the midst of the doctors who" were astonished at His wisdom and answers. Moreover since, "as God hath delivered to everyone the measure of Faith", (Epistle) Christian souls form but "one body in Christ" (Epistle), they ought to be penetrated with the wisdom of Him who far from "conforming himself to the maxims of this world," reforms "and rules human life according to the will of God" (Epistle).
"Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?" said the young boy Jesus. This wholly supernatural wisdom whose guiding principles exceed, without destroying those of the natural order, is beyond our unaided powers. While seeking to curb our flesh by the mortification which such wisdom enjoins, sacrificing at times, even the most lawful affection, in pursuance of a divine call which draws children from their parents' side, the plans of almighty God must needs remain for us hidden mysteries to be accepted without being completely understood. "They understood not the word that He spoke unto them" (Gospel). Following Mary who "kept all these words in her heart", (Gospel) let us meditate on the sublimity of Jesus' words and actions in the Temple. Like this Child whose whole life at Nazareth is summed up in the one word "subjection" (Gospel), let us grow in wisdom so that always we may "perceive what we ought to do," and in strength "to fulfil the same" (Collect).
In excelso throno vidi sedere virum, quem adorat multitudo Angelorum, psallentes in unum: Ecce cujus imperii nomen est in aeternum. * Jubilate Deo, omnis terra: servite Domino in laetitia.
Upon a high throne I saw a Man sitting, whom a multitude of Angels adore singing together: Behold Him the name of whose empire is for ever. * O sing joyfully to the Lord, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness.
(Apoc. 4:2 and 5:11 and Psalm 99:1 from the Introit of Mass)
Vota, quaesumus, Domine, supplicantis populi caelesti pietate prosequere: ut et quae agenda sunt, videant, et ad implenda quae viderint, convalescant.
O Lord, we beseech Thee, mercifully hear the prayers of Thy people who call upon Thee; and grant that they may both perceive what they ought to do, and may have grace and strength to fulfil the same.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
When Jesus was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast, and having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the Child Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents knew it not. And thinking that He was in the company, they came a day's journey, and sought Him among His kinsfolks and acquaintance. And not finding Him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking Him. And it came to pass that after three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard Him were astonished at His wisdom and His answers. And seeing Him they wondered. And His mother said to Him : Son, why hast Thou done so to us ? Behold Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing. And He said to them : How is it that you sought Me ? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business ? And they understood not the word that He spoke unto them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And His mother kept all these words in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men.
(St Luke 2:42-52)