2 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.
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.
“My eyes have seen the salvation… a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people”
Buoyed by a resolve to courageously follow His calling, I approached 2019 with a sense of hope and expectancy. The year started off with promise – everything was going swimmingly well and new windows of opportunity had opened up. Suddenly, a series of unexpected setbacks threatened to jeopardise my plans. Well-meaning friends and relatives expressed concerns about my future, asking questions which I had no answers to. I felt confused and alienated, not unlike the people of Israel who may have questioned God’s plans for them.
My natural instinct was to jump into problem-solving mode, leaning on my willpower and abilities to set things right. It took considerable effort to pull back and recognise that any decision I made under those circumstances would be from a place of pride and self-sufficiency. By relegating God to a supporting role, whatever interventions I made in my brokenness would run counter to God’s plans.
Today’s readings remind us that Jesus, the Light of the world, is with us. There is no reason for us to doubt in His plans, nor lead our lives shrouded in unfounded fear or anxiety. He will keep us safe and show us the way in the darkness. All God asks for is our cooperation to surrender our wills to Him, trusting that He will guide us where He wills. And perhaps, witnessing to God is about embracing our brokenness and living our lives aligned with the will of God.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Seet)
Prayer: Dear Father, grant us the grace to see Your presence and surrender to Your will amidst trials and tribulations. Use our gifts and brokenness to be testimonies of Your grace.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for sending us Jesus to show us the way.