Saturday, February 2, 2008
The Presentation of the Lord
This Feast officially marked the end of the Christmas season for years as it was a known fact that, according to the Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would go to the Temple in Jerusalem for both the purification of the new mother and to present the son forty days after the birth. Mary would have entered the temple with Jesus and would have brought an offering of a lamb or a dove or two doves or even pigeons. Luke gives us the details in today's Gospel, but I found that this feast began to be celebrated in the 4th century in Jerusalem and, in the Eastern Church, it is called "The Meeting of Jesus and Mary with Simeon and Ann, representatives of the Old Covenant."
In the Middle Ages, the feast was called Candlemas and the candles were blessed. My mother always brought home two blessed candles on this feast and would light them during the year whenever there was a severe thunder storm. She believed that blessed candles protected the home from danger.
Luke tells us that "When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord ...
Then Luke introduces both Simeon and Anna. Simeon was waiting as the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ. He came, then, and took Jesus 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 sight of all the peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory for your people Israel."
Mary and Joseph were amazed at what was said about him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, "Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted; you yourself a sword will pierce so the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
There was also a prophetess, Anna, who was 84 and worshiped in the temple night and day. She came forward and gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
This is a feast that gives us much to reflect upon and we may be sure that Mary pondered all these words in her heart.