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A Place of Holy Encounter
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
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, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him 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 the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted. And you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to encounter you in your word, just as Simeon and Anna encountered you in the temple. Fill me with your energy and vitality to serve and glorify you as they did.
- Israel’s Encounter: Imagine this picture of the Holy Family coming to the temple in a spirit of sacrifice and obedience. Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple to offer their sacrifice of poverty, not the sacrifice of the wealthy (Leviticus 12:8). They presented their firstborn son to consecrate him to the Lord. St. John Paul II said, “These words resound in the temple of Jerusalem, as forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph prepare to ‘present him to the Lord’ (Luke 2:22). By emphasizing the contrast between the modest, humble action of the two parents and the glory of the event as perceived by Simeon and Anna, the Evangelist Luke apparently wanted to suggest that the temple itself was waiting for the Child’s coming.” This is the moment when God revealed Christ, the true High Priest (Hebrews 9:11), to the temple itself. It is the moment of Israel’s first encounter with Christ. Simeon and Anna represent Israel: both of these elderly, faithful Jews had waited their whole lives to see this child who had suddenly been brought before them in the temple. Israel had been waiting in expectant joy for the advent of Christ for hundreds of years. As Isaiah prophesied, the child Emmanuel (Isaiah 17:14) is also Israel’s righteous King (cf. Isaiah 9:1-7). As our first reading today promises: “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” (Malachi 3:1).
- Simeon’s Encounter: God promised the righteous, devout Simeon the gift of sight: to see the Lord with his own eyes. This is the beatific vision that, God willing, we all will experience when we see God face-to-face in Heaven. Simeon wanted to see with his own eyes this light that would shine on all the nations. He longed for God to come, bringing his mercy, justice, and truth to the broken world. Like Job, he longed to see Christ incarnate on the earth: “For I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth…and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25, 27). Simeon received the blessing of holding the Lord in his arms! Simeon also encountered Mary, offering her a type of “second” Annunciation. Through God’s gift of spiritual sight, he announced Jesus’ true mission on the cross and that Mary would have her own share in the suffering of the cross. We who are Christ’s disciples will also share in his redemptive suffering.
- Anna’s Encounter: Anna was an inspiring woman of heroic virtue. She was known as a prophetess, meaning she was also blessed with spiritual vision. Luke mentioned her heritage, from the house of Asher, along with her father’s name. She was married and widowed, then spent her life serving God in the temple, constantly worshiping, praying, fasting, and watching for the Messiah. When she saw Jesus, she knew that it was the time of God’s visitation. This was unlike many Israelites, who “did not recognize the time of [their] visitation from God” (Luke 19:44). When she encountered Jesus, she immediately assumed her prophetic role: “At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Do we have this expectant confidence in the Lord? How do we encounter Christ in prayer and the sacraments and then allow others to encounter Christ through us?
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, I marvel at your coming to us in history, as in this Gospel passage. I am in wonder at you coming to me in mystery under the veil of the Most Blessed Sacrament and in your word. I am in awe of the moment when you will come again in majesty, when all flesh shall see your salvation, just as Simeon did (cf. Luke 3:6). Inspire and lead me with the Holy Spirit as you lead Simeon and Anna. Fill me with zeal for building up your Kingdom of Heaven, and so prepare for your coming.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will imitate Simeon and Anna by worshiping and praying in your presence in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
For Further Reflection: Watch this video: Fra Angelico, “The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple” by Christian Art, which explores the details and facts about this famous painting.
Carey Boyzuck is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and lay member of Regnum Christi. She blogs at www.word-life-light.com.