Monday, February 2, 2009

Presentation of Our Lord Luke 2:22-40

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother 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 also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 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.

When they had finished everything required by 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.

Comments: Today is the Feast of the Presentation. It is celebrated in most liturgical churches including the Episcopal and the ELCA. It is the story of the pilgrimage of the parents of Jesus to offer sacrifice in the Temple in Jerusalem. In Jewish custom this event is less of a presentation of Jesus in the Temple than a purification of Mary. This feast, Candlemas, is one of the oldest festivals of the Church known to have been celebrated during the 3rd century CE. It is celebrated in the Western churches on Feb. 2, forty days after Christmas and in Orthodox churches 40 days after Epiphany. In some churches the beeswax candles are blessed on this day. The Canticle Nunc Dimittus, the Now Lord You May Dismiss your Servant, is the portion of the service that is used in the ELCA as a response to the reception of Holy Communion. In the Episcopal Church, this canticle is used during Night Prayer and for Funerals.

Today I am touched by the efforts of Jesus’ family to fulfill the customs and the Mosaic Law. That there were those in the Temple who understood the gravity of this event shows the work of the Holy Spirit. Simeon understood the greatness to which the child was destined. He was to be a Light to the Gentiles—to the nations who were not Jewish. He could die in peace.

I too have seen the efforts of Christ converting the ‘nations’ here in Ft. Worth this week. There is hope for the Episcopal Church yet.

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