02 Feb – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord; World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life
This feast celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season.
This feast is also known by other traditional names including Candelmas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Candlemas marked the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season.
The Western term ‘Candlemas’ (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on Feb 2 (forty days after Christmas) blessed beeswax candles with an aspergilium (liturgical implement used to sprinkle holy water) for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home.
Since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasized in favour of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.
The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger to prepare a way before me. And the Lord you are seeking will suddenly enter his Temple; and the angel of the covenant whom you are longing for, yes, he is coming, says the Lord of Hosts. Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made. The offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old.
Since all the children share the same blood and flesh, Christ too shared equally in it, so that by his death he could take away all the power of the devil, who had power over death, and set free all those who had been held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death. For it was not the angels that he took to himself; he took to himself descent from Abraham. It was essential that he should in this way become completely like his brothers so that he could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God’s religion, able to atone for human sins. That is, because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.
When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.
Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:
‘Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace,
just as you promised;
because my eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared for all the nations to see,
a light to enlighten the pagans
and the glory of your people Israel.’
As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’
There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.
When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.
Because my eyes have seen the salvation
I am sure that my fellow writers on the Oxygen team would agree with me that writing for Oxygen has, in a way, forced us to develop a disciplined approach towards reading and reflecting on scripture. It has become habitual for me to go through various steps in my mind as I open the missal. Pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, read each sentence slowly and prayerfully, picturing the scene in my mind, being aware of words or phrases that strike me as I read, and so on. I have long known about methods of praying with scripture, but I doubt I would have actually carried them out if I had not had the practice that comes with the responsibility of submitting reflections.
Both Simeon and Anna are described as devout servants of the Lord in the gospel reading. I am not sure how, but it seems that they simply recognised Jesus as the saviour the moment they laid eyes on him. I don’t think they would have that recognition if they had not devoted so much of their time to being in relationship with the Lord.
It is not uncommon to hear people say that there is no time for prayer. I tend to give more priority to either work or leisure than to prayer time. Indeed, compared to watching DVDs or playing games on Wii, spending time in prayer is not one of those activities that offer instant gratification, even if what we are hoping for is consolation from God. Like working on an art piece or bringing up a child, it takes time and patience to see one’s perseverance in prayer bear fruit. Sometimes God may appear distant, or silent, or we ourselves might choose to hide from Him, but the advice I come across is always to keep on at it, so that at least the habit is formed.
My dear readers, Jesus is always knocking on our doors. Are we able to discern the knocking from amidst the cacophony of noises in our lives?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the discipline to spend time in your presence each day.
Thanksgiving: Dear Lord, we give thanks for the gift of your son Jesus.