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A Light for the Nations ~ and me and you too!


IMG_1605The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple ~ February 2, 2017

I’ve always loved this feast day.  It marks the old conclusion of the Christmas season—forty days after Christmas.  The second reason is that it also marked the anniversary of my AA sobriety.

So, today the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in today’s liturgy. This is known as a “Christmas feast” since it points back to the Solemnity of Christmas. Some Catholics practice the tradition of keeping out the Nativity crèche or other Christmas decorations until this feast. I still have my Advent wreath in my living room and my Christmas cards still on display. Interestingly, my advent wreaths don’t shed their needles. The one in my living room now, I bought just after Thanksgiving and is still green, and I have eight more hanging on my porch; they’re brown, but haven’t shed at all and still have a light scent.

If possible, the liturgy begins with a procession, or at least, the priest goes to the entrance of the church as he does on Palm Sunday, and address the congregation with these words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Forty days have passed since the joyful feast of the Nativity of the Lord.

Today is the blessed day when Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph.

Outwardly, he was coming to fulfill the Law,

but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit,

Simeon and Anna came to the Temple.

Enlightened by the same Spirit,

They recognized the Lord

and confessed him with exultation.

And then he blesses the candles to be used at the altar for the coming year and ones the people will carry in procession with these words:

O God, true light, who create light eternal,

Spreading far and wide,

pour into the hearts of your faithful

the brilliance of perpetual light,

so that all who are brightened in your holy temple

by the splendor of these candles

may happily reach the light of your glory.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

And then the people follow the priest into the church carrying their lighted candles.

The Readings
Today’s first reading gives us an important insight to understand the mystery of the Lord’s Presentation in the Temple by Mary and Joseph, according to the Mosaic Law. The text, taken from the Prophet Malachi says, ‘I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord who you seek’ (Mal 3:1). From all the Gospels, we know that it is the Precursor, St John the Baptist who was born six months before Jesus, that God sent him to prepare His way. Putting these evangelical facts together, we can better understand the words of the prophet Malachi. The Lord God promised that He would send a Precursor to prepare His way. Since there is only six months between the birth of St John the Baptist and Jesus it’s  clear that the prophecy meant that suddenly after the Precursor, the Lord Himself will come. So, soon after the Baptist’s birth, God entered His temple. Jesus’ presentation signifies God’s entrance to His temple. The God-made-man entered His temple, presenting Himself to those who were really searching for Him.

Then there are these words from Malachi that struck me because of my AA recovery:

For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
He will sit refining and purifying silver,
and he will purify the sons of Levi,
Refining them like gold or like silver.

It also reminds me of Jesus’ later purification of the Temple itself, driving out the money changers with whips and cords.

Today’s Gospel introduces us to different people and events that in themselves provide other lessons and themes for further reflection. First of all, Mary and Joseph respect the Mosaic Law by offering the sacrifice prescribed for the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Simeon and Anna were two venerable elderly people dedicated to prayer and fasting and so their strong religious spirit rendered them able to recognize the Messiah.  Those who pray and offer penance, like Simeon and Anna, are open to the breath of the Spirit. They know how to recognize the Lord in the circumstances in which He manifests Himself because they possess an ample interior vision, and they have learned how to love with the heart of the One whose very name is Charity.

At the end of the Gospel Simeon’s prophecy of Mary’s sufferings is emphasized. Saint Pope John Paul II taught that, ‘Simeon’s words seem like a second Annunciation to Mary, for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow.’

The old man Simeon was—and is—a wonderful model as man of devotion for his time and ours. I’m going to let the Gospel text speak for itself:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.
This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. 
He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go 
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
—and you yourself a sword will pierce—
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

And now my prayer . . .

Dearest Lady,

Mother of Jesus,

You and Joseph took Jesus back home and raised him

with all the love in your hearts.

But you must have pondered Simeon’s prophecy,

or did you just keep on trusting?

Dearest Mary, Mother of us all,

there are so, so many mothers today who have swords of sorrow

that have pierced their hearts.

Children dying from famine,

Refugee mothers fleeing from war-torn countries,

Single mothers trying to make ends meet,

Women caught in sweat shops or prostitution rings,

Pregnant women not knowing what to do,

and so many other desperate situations.

Mary, we come to you on this Feast Day as always

Asking for your intercession for our troubled world.

We ask this as always in your Son’s name.

Amen.

The prayer of Simeon’s is sung or recited at in the church’s Night Prayer throughout the world.

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go 
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

Quit fitting, don’t you think?

And here’s the Canticle of Simeon in song. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

And here are the Mass Readings for today. Click here.

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

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