Light revealed to the peoples

Posté par diaconos le 30 décembre 2020

“Il Signore è come l’aria e la luce di  primavera ed estate”

# The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an event in the life of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospel according to Luke (Lk 2,22f). Fulfilling a prescription of the Jewish law: « Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord » (Ex 13,2,11-13) His parents presented him and offered him at the Temple in Jerusalem. There he was welcomed by old Simeon. The associated Christian feast is celebrated forty days after Christmas, i.e. on 2 February in the Gregorian calendar. In the Eastern Churches it is also celebrated on 2 February in the Julian calendar, which is equivalent to 14 February in the Gregorian calendar. 2 February has long been an important date for peasants, which is remembered by a large number of proverbs. This date is traditionally Candlemas, originally a pagan festival celebrating light, which was replaced by the Christian festival. This feast is also a theme in religious iconography, both in painting and in illuminations, sculpture, stained glass, tapestries, etc. It is inspired by a scene described in the Gospel according to Luke II, 22-39, where the son of the Virgin Mary is announced by Simeon as the « Master » and « the light that will bring revelation to the Gentiles « 2 , i.e. the non-Jews.

From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St Luke

When the time prescribed by the Law of Moses for purification was fulfilled, the parents of Jesus brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, according to what is written in the Law: Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to the Lord. They also came to offer the sacrifice prescribed by the law of the Lord: a pair of turtledoves or two doves.

Now there was in Jerusalem a man named Simeon. He was a righteous and eligious man, who awaited the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. He had received from the Holy Spirit the announcement that he would not see death until he had seen Christ, the Messiah of the Lord. Under the action of the Spirit, Simeon came to the Temple.

While the parents presented the child Jesus to observe the rite of the Law concerning him, Simeon received him in his arms and blessed God, saying: « Now, O sovereign master, let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen the salvation that you are preparing before the nations : « a light that is revealed to the nations and gives glory to your people Israel. »

The child’s father and mother were astonished at what was said of him. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother : « Behold, this child will bring about the fall and rise of many in Israel. He will be a sign of contradiction – and your soul will be pierced with the sword: thus will be revealed the thoughts that come from the hearts of many ». (Lk 2, 22-35)

Circumcision and Presentation in the Temple

Jesus’ parents took him to the temple to fulfil the requirements of the law on the purification of the mother and the consecration of the firstborn. They offered the sacrifice of the poor. Simeon. This righteous and pious man, who was waiting for salvation and had received a promise to see him before he died, came to the temple, led by the Spirit, and took the child into his arms and blessed God.

Simeon expressed his personal feelings: he could leave in peace, because he saw salvation ; then he celebrated this salvation that God had prepared, and that was the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. To the admiration of his father and mother, Simeon responded by prophesying the solution that the Messiah made, the opposition he encountered, the great pain he caused his mother. The purpose of these dispensations was the manifestation of hidden thoughts.

Joseph did not have to purify himself, but, as Mr Godet observes, he would have been responsible, as head of the family, if the purification had not been carried out. The law of Moses prescribed that after seven days of legal defilement and thirty-three days of retreat, the Israelite mother should offer a sacrifice for her purification.

And every first-born son of the Lord should be wholly devoted to his service: but the tribe of Levi was for this service, that all the first-born sons of the other tribes should be redeemed for money, that the divine right should be established, and that the prince of the house of fathers should always remember his duty.

The mother was to offer a lamb as a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for sin; but if she could not afford it, she could replace this sacrifice with that of two turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Luke only mentioned this last sacrifice, the sacrifice of the poor, because it was Mary’s sacrifice. Already then a profound word of Paul’s was fulfilled : « For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: for he became poor for you when he was rich, that by his poverty you might be made rich. « (2 Corinthians 8: 9).

Simeon is unknown in history; his name means ‘fulfilment’. He was just and pious (this word also has the meaning of prudent designated by this beautiful and intimate term: the consolation of Israel.  We can see from the examples of Simeon, Anna, Zechariah, Joseph and others that there were humble Israelites ready to welcome the Lord in whatever pious form God wanted to show them.

The official priesthood did not welcome the Lord who, for the first time, entered his temple : « Well, I will send my messenger to make straight the way before me. And suddenly he will enter his temple, the Lord whom you are waiting for; he is the angel of the covenant, called by your vows. Behold, he comes, declares the Lord, the Lord of heavenly armies.  « (Ml 3, 1)

A free priesthood, represented by Simeon and Anna, was formed to replace him. The source of Simeon’s religious life was clearly indicated. It was the Holy Spirit who was upon him. At that solemn moment in his life he received a new measure of that divine Spirit who communicated to him the gift of prophecy.

The Lord’s Christ, an Old Testament term meaning the Lord’s Anointed One, the Saviour whom the Lord has promised to His people and has just given them.  He was enlightened and led by the Spirit, and it was by this Spirit that he immediately recognised his Saviour in the little child. By the Spirit that was in him, Simeon became a prophet ; he no longer spoke of himself, but his mind was lifted up to that salvation which God had prepared for all peoples and which all shall see.

And this preparation has taken place for centuries through all the revelations of the old covenant. This great salvation destined for all is divided into two different streams. On the one hand, it is light to enlighten the Gentile nations, for the revelation intended for them was plunged into deepest darkness ; on the other, it was the glory of the people of Israel.

The parents ; they were blessed in the name of God. The magnificent promises they heard succeeded in raising in the hearts of Joseph and Mary carnal hopes, full of illusions ; Simeon repressed them by presenting them with the painful aspect of the future reserved for their child. He addressed the grave words that followed to Mary, personally, because this prophecy directly concerned her.

God’s plan was determined by the opposing dispositions of those to whom the Saviour had been sent: for some it was an occasion of falling, for others of rising. Wherever truth is presented to a soul, divine judgment is exercised in it ; with its unbelief and hardening.

But the crisis could have a completely different outcome: through repentance, through faith, the soul rose to the fullness of life. The parents ; they were blessed in the name of God. The magnificent promises they had heard had succeeded in raising in the hearts of Joseph and Mary carnal hopes, full of illusions; Simeon repressed them by presenting them with the painful aspect of the future reserved for their child.

He addressed the grave words that followed to Mary, personally, because this prophecy directly concerned her. The plan of God was determined by the opposing dispositions of those to whom the Saviour had been sent: for some it was an occasion of falling, for others of rising. Wherever truth is presented to a soul, divine judgment is exercised in it; with its unbelief and hardening.

It is also in the presence of the cross that the thoughts of the heart are revealed, according to faith or unbelief, love or hatred for the Crucified One.  The « thoughts of the heart revealed » indicated why Mary could not be spared from this great pain.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊ St Patrick Parish : click here to read the paper → The circumcision of Christ and his Presentation in the Temple

◊ Meditations on the Rosary : click here to read the paper →  The Circumcision and Presentation in the Temple.

Dr Gary Staats : « The Life of Christ-the circumcision and presentation in the temple »

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