“Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is spoken against
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35)
The seventeenth-century English poet Joseph Beaumont wrote:
May we have leave to ask, illustrious Mother,
Why thou dost turtles bring
For thy Son’s offering,
And rather giv’st not one lamb for another? It seems that golden shower which th’other day
The forward faithful East
Poured at thy feet, made haste
Through some devout expence to find its way. O precious poverty, which canst appear
Richer to holy eyes
Than any golden prize,
And sweeter art than frankincense and myrrh! Come then, that silver, which thy turtles wear
Upon their wings, shall make
Precious thy gift, and speak
That Son of thine, like them, all pure and fair. But know that heaven will not be long in debt;
No, the Eternal Dove
Down from his nest above
Shall come, and on thy son’s dear head shall sit.
Heaven will not have Him ransomed, heaven’s law
Makes no exception
For lambs, and such a one
Is He: a fairer Lamb heaven never saw. He must be offered, or the world is lost:
The whole world’s ransom lies
In this great sacrifice;
And He will pay its debt, whate’er it cost. Nor shall these turtles unrepayed be,
These turtles which today
Thy love for Him did pay:
Thou ransom’dst Him, and He will ransom thee. A dear and full redemption will He give
Thee and the world: this Son,
And none but this alone
By His own death can make His Mother live.
“Consecrate to me every first-born that opens the womb among the Israelites both of man and beast, for it belongs to me” (Exodus 13:2).
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy 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)
Joseph Beaumont (1616-1699) was an Anglican clergyman; he was a student at Peterhouse with the poet Richard Crashaw and after the Restoration a royal chaplain. This poem and its tender address to Mary indicates that he wished to preserve Catholic veneration of Mary, and even prayers to her.
“The faithful forward East” refers to the three kings and their gift of gold, “that golden shower,” which Mary, because she made the offering of the poor, no longer had, and must therefore have spent in “some devout expence.” The turtles (turtledoves) are silver and replace the gold of the Magi, and the mention of the turtles leads to the Eternal Dove, the Holy Spirit, which descends on Jesus at the Baptism in the Jordan.
In the paradoxes on Christianity, poverty is richer than wealth, and Jesus alone by his death can give life to His mother, the reversal of the course of nature.