Today, as the secular world celebrates ground hog day, we in the Holy Mother Church are blessed with the celebration of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Years ago, in many Catholic homes, and perhaps in more traditional homes still, the nativity or the Creche is left out on display until today, when it is carefully packed away until next Christmas. Because it is the day that Christ was presented at the temple…as a light to the world, it is also the day we get our candles blessed for the coming year, which is known as Candlemas day. Finally in the Traditional calendar it was also the day to celebrate the Purification of Mary.
Back in Jesus’ day the temple was the most important place on earth, it was where man and God united…(like the Catholic Church of today!) God loved His people, but the Israelites had begun to worship God in a way that was fallen…they had lost their focus on the true nature of God and how they were to live and serve Him. So God, being all good that He is, sent us His Son, Jesus, who is both human and divine to unite us back to our Father in heaven….to bring humanity back in line with God. To teach us again how to love Him…to serve Him and to know Him, so that we may be with Him in Heaven.
Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple in accord with the Mosaic law which stated that the firstborn male child of every creature belonged to God. They brought Jesus to be redeemed according to this law. Thus ‘presenting Jesus’ at the temple. This presentation signifies God’s entrance into His temple. God -made -man entered into the temple, allowing those who had been searching for Him, to see Him and rejoice.
Simeon and Anna are described by St. Methodius (b. 826) in symbolic terms. He wrote:
“the old man represented the people of lsrael, and the law now waxing old; whilst the widow represents the Church of the Gentiles, which had been up to this point a widow –the old man, indeed, as personating the law, seeks dismissal; but the widow, as personating the Church, brought her joyous confession of faith and spake of Him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem”…
Simeon and Anna set perfect examples for us about how important interior prayer life is. They serve as a reminder of the significance of developing a contemplative prayer life. These two people who are elderly, have spent the better parts of their lives praying, fasting and waiting at the temple to see the promised Messiah. We might think this type of waiting a waste of time. Nowadays we so often fail to spend one hour with the Lord in adoration. We have things to do, things to accomplish…we don’t have the time, we are busy…busy…filling every moment of every day with noise and activities. Which are fine and good, when we are working to fulfill our vocations, but we fail to understand that in order to develop a true Christian heart, true Christian Charity, we must spend time offering prayer and penance. It is a vital part of our vocation… whatever it might be.
We must allow our hearts to be silent and contemplate on the One who made us. If we mean what we say, when we imply that we are trying to live our lives as Christians in accordance with who God created; and that we are honestly trying to be a light of Christ for all the world; then, we must spend time with the Lord in quiet adoration. We must find time to allow God’s breath to fill us. We must allow the Holy Spirit to fill us. Then and only then, will we be able to recognize the Lord in the circumstances in which He manifests Himself to us. Then and only then, will we have learned to love with a heart that is in union with that of our Creator.
God has promised that He would be with us always…and He has shown throughout the generations that this is so. He is faithful to His promises , we just need to be steadfast and patient, and wait for Him in the quiet.