Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance! And transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself through contemplation. 3rd Letter of St. Clare to Agnes of Prague
Forty days after Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of our Lord. The event which the Church commemorates on this feast is described in St Luke’s Gospel: In Luke’s account, Jesus was welcomed in the temple by two elderly people, Simeon and the widow Anna. They embody Israel in their patient expectation; they acknowledge the infant Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Simeon, the old man burst into a song of joy (the Nunc Dimitis) which the Church still sings at compline (at the day’s end) .
Gospel according to St Luke (New American Bible)
(Luke 2: 21-40).
21 When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
According to the Mosaic Law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days, then for 33 days was excluded from public worship. When the appointed forty days were past, she was expected to offer a sacrifice for her purification – “a lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon for a turtle dove for a sin offering.” In case of poverty, however, two young pigeons or turtle doves would suffice. The priest then prayed for her, “purifying” her and restoring her to her former status. Sacred Scripture tells us that the Mother of God fulfilled this law despite the fact that, considering the spirit of this legal enactment, she was not bound to it. Mary was the chaste Spouse of the Holy Spirit, virgin in conceiving and virgin in giving birth to her Son. Yet the Holy Spirit inspired her to comply with this law and she fulfilled the will of God, embracing it with her whole heart.
In Mosaic Law, every first-born was considered as belonging to God and had to be brought back by an offering. The Mother of God fulfilled this also. She brought Jesus to the Temple to present Him according to the Law.
According to the Gospels, there was then living in Jerusalem an old man, Simeon by name, whose heart longed unceasingly for the Messiah. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he should not die without first seeing the Lord’s Anointed. Led by the Spirit, Simeon went to the Temple at the time Mary and Joseph were bringing In the Child Jesus. The prophetess Anna, Phanuel’s daughter, was there to meet the child Jesus. Simeon and Anna represent the Old Testament, gathered to celebrate the happy coming of the Child who was to renew the face of the earth.
The feast is also called the Purification and is counted as a feast of the Blessed Virgin.
On this day candles are blessed and a procession is held in the church in which all the laity are invited to take part. “Christ himself says, ‘I am the light of the world.’ And we are the light, we ourselves, if we receive it from him.... But how do we receive it, how do we make it shine? ...The candle tells us: by burning, and being consumed in the burning. A spark of fire, a ray of love, an inevitable immolation are celebrated over that pure, straight candle, as, pouring forth its gift of light, it exhausts itself in silent sacrifice” (Paul VI).