Feast of the Day: The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – February 2
St. Joseph & Prophetess Anna; St. Mary, the Christ Child, & the Prophet Simeon
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is February 2 and is known in the West as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Around 450 in Jerusalem, people began holding lighted candles during the Liturgy on this day and it became known as Candlemas. The feast has always had more prominence in the East. However, it has been celebrated in the West since the 11th Century. It marks the formal end of the Christmas season.
The presentation commemorates the ritual purification of Jewish mothers on the 40th day after birth and the redemption offering for first born sons. (Luke 2:22-40) At the temple, the Holy Family meet Simeon who had prayed for the coming of the Messiah and had been assured by God that he would not see death until he had seen the Savior of Israel.
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.
34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against,
35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,
37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.
40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.
There is really not much more to say, except to note the gratitude of Simeon and Anna and the bewilderment of Joseph and Mary. For those of us who have had the joy, bewilderment, and sleep deprivation characteristic of new parents, the experience rings true. So do the words of prophets in our lives – those strange outsiders who many times see our children more clearly than we can.
As glorious as the Canticle of Simeon is, there is a prayer that I learned when I was a new father:
“Lord, please help me to see my children the way other people do.” It is always unsettling – always a revelation.