Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
On today’s feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, we have a very personal and cultic set of readings. “Cultic” means that the people, place and practices of the Temple are the setting for the young family which brings its first born to the Temple, to present him to the Lord.
The first reading, from the Prophet Malachi, anticipates the coming of Jesus to the Temple, as one sent by the Father. It says:
And suddenly there will come to the temple
the LORD whom you seek,
And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
Although Jesus is only a few weeks old at the Presentation in the Temple, he is already acknowledged as the one who fulfills the longed-for expectation of a Redeemer for Israel. This is what the two venerable old people, Simeon and Anna, intuitively see in the child being brought forth in the arms of his parents. After lifetimes of hoping and praying at the Temple, Simeon and Anna give thanks to God for letting them hold in their arms the greatest sign of God’s love for humankind.
The reading from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that even in his incarnation and birth, Jesus is the Savior, whose human nature subjects him to all of human experience, and therefore makes His Passion meaningful for us because he willingly underwent His suffering on our behalf. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
Today is a good day to remember Simeon and Anna when we go to Church (although you will probably attend the Sunday vigil Mass, rather than the celebration of today’s Feast). Look around, gaze a bit at the older parishioners. Think of the years that they have faithfully “come to the temple”, paging through their well-worn prayer books for the comfort of their prayers; sitting in quiet silence; asking for special blessing and grace, probably not for themselves, but for a grandchild, a niece or nephew, a son or daughter. Remember Simeon and Anna, who reached out to receive the Child into their own arms and for a moment were suffused with grace and blessing; remember them when you reach out with your hands to receive the self-same Savior, not just for a moment of blessing, but for the grace of the divine Eucharist in your own being.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.