St Clare of Assisi

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Presentation of Our Lord - Feast Dedicated to the Consecrated Life

     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.

22

 When the days were completed for their purification  according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,

23

just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,"

24

and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

25

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.

26

It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.

27

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,

28

he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

29

"Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,

30

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

31

which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,

32

a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."

33

The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;

34

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

35

(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

36

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,

37

and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

38

And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

39

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.

40

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).

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