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The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord


The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, celebrated on February 2, commemorates the first appearance of the Holy Family in the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary, although perpetually a virgin, underwent the ritual purification required of the mother of a firstborn son. In fact, for centuries, this feast was known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Mary and Joseph also brought Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him to the Lord, a stipulation of the Law of Moses. Eventually, that became the focus, and the feast became known as the Presentation of the Lord.
 
The presentation has been called the “second epiphany.’’ The appearance of the infant Jesus in the Temple evokes the prophecy of Malachi: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple’’ (Malachi 3:1). John the Baptist had been born only several months before, and already the Savior John was to announce appeared in God’s house.
 
The arrival of Jesus did not go unnoticed, as Luke recalls in his Gospel. The prophetess Anna and the elderly Simeon heralded the child who would redeem not only Israel, whose expectation these prayerful people embodied, but the whole world.
 
But there also was an ominous note. Simeon told Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’’ There was nothing like this in the message of the archangel who told Mary that she would bear a son conceived by the Holy Spirit.
 
Mary and Joseph accepted the angel’s word because they believed it to be God’s will. And then, hearing from a holy man in the Temple that their son’s work would inspire resistance and that Mary herself would feel the effects of the opposition to him, the couple still accepted God’s will and continued with love to carry out their responsibilities as parents of this holy child.
 
We know that Mary, at least, lived to see Simeon’s prophecy fulfilled in the opposition to the ministry of Jesus and then in his suffering and death.
 
Pope John XXIII alluded to the far-reaching implications of Simeon’s warning in a speech at the opening of the Second Vatican Council, whose teachings the Church is reaffirming during this Year of Faith.
 
“The aged Simeon’s prophecy to Mary … proves true in every age,” the pope said.
 
“Certain it is that the critical issues, the thorny problems that wait upon men’s solution, have remained the same for almost twenty centuries. And why? Because the whole of history and of life hinges on the person of Jesus Christ. Either men anchor themselves on him and his Church, and thus enjoy the blessings of light and joy, right order and peace; or they live their lives apart from him; many positively oppose Him, and deliberately exclude themselves from the Church. The result can only be confusion in their lives, bitterness in their relations with one another, and the savage threat of war.’’
 
The Church, through the New Evangelization, invites all people to do the opposite — to live our lives in the constant company of Jesus and so be to the world both signs and agents of his Gospel.

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store

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