After the aged Simeon has blessed the infant Jesus and proclaimed his greatness as a light to enlighten the world and bring glory to the people of Israel, he turns to the Blessed Virgin and prophesies that her Son will be a sign of contradiction and that a sword will pierce her soul (Lk 2:34-35).
This expression foresees the struggle, the contradictions, the pains, that is, the way in which the work of redemption sung about in Simeon’s song of thanksgiving will be accomplished.
Here the holy old man clearly announces the suffering of our Saviour and the compassion of the Blessed Mother. He predicts that some will be for Jesus, others against him. He will deliver many from sin and lead them to Heaven.
But he will also be a cause of fall for many who will refuse to hear his message and will shut themselves up in their sin, thus earning eternal Hell. “The light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
The Blessed Virgin will suffer terribly from the ingratitude of men and she will suffer even more to see her Son cruelly mistreated and killed. The sword which the holy old man announces is therefore the sword of Mary’s compassion.
Thus the mystery of the 2nd of February is a magnificent revelation of the time-honoured saying: per crucem ad lucem – Only through the cross does one reach the light.
Simeon’s song is full of light, peace and gentleness. When he goes to congratulate the parents, one can imagine the joyful face of the old holy man, full of gratitude and holy amazement. Immediately afterwards, however, his prophetic eyes must have darkened, and his words came out sharp and piercing like the sword announced to Mary.
Simeon’s joy and his prophetic words, which proclaimed the great reality of this divine redemptive sacrifice and the law of her maternal pain connected with it, had already been known to Mary from the moment of the angel’s announcement. Yes, she had already experienced these joys and pains on a daily basis from the journey to Bethlehem until this moment.
Simeon’s amazed exultation was but a pale comparison with Mary’s ardent and loving joy, and the sufferings he prophesied corresponded in her heart to the painful experience already begun.
With a very deep knowledge, her mind gathered, as usual, to reflect on the words she had heard: “Her father and her mother were amazed at what he said about him” (Lk 2:33).
The Gospel reports this immediately after the song of Simeon’s joy, but Mary remained in this frame of mind, even though the words of abysmal sadness immediately followed. And she responded generously with the inner renewal of her heroic and loving “fiat”.
“I feel with you, O sorrowful Mother, the pain caused by the sword piercing you when Simeon prophesied to you in the temple of the torments which men would inflict on your beloved Jesus, up to the moment when he died before your eyes on the wood of the cross, covered with blood and abandoned by all, without being able to receive protection or help from you. Therefore, my Queen, through this bitter memory which has weighed down your heart for so many years, I ask you to obtain for me the grace to keep the sufferings of Jesus Christ and yourself always, from life to death, engraved in my heart. Amen.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)