presentation of the LordHomily for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

2 February 2014

Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: 6:00pm Saturday & 9:00am Sunday

[Readings: Malachi 3:1-4;  Psalm 23;  Hebrews 2:14-18;  Lk 2:22-40]

Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord beautifully presents the humanity and divinity of our Lord Jesus.  In the first place, the whole scene plants him firmly in history.  The Holy Family faithfully observe the Old Testament law that “prescribed a ritual purification for the mother” a certain number of days after childbirth – after 33 days for a girl, and after 66 days for a boy.  The older name for today’s feast – and indeed its most biblical and Jewish name – captures this reality: the Purification of our Lady.

But of course we immediately add that this is no ordinary mother coming to the Temple to be purified.  This is the all-pure Virgin, the Mother of God;  she who was the way by which holiness itself – Jesus Christ, the Holy one of God – came into the world (1).

The actions of Simeon and Anna during this event draw out the extraordinary nature of this particular purification.  It had been revealed to Simeon and Anna that they would not see death before they saw the arrival of the true light of the world.  You can hear the sense of completion and fulfillment in Simeon’s words which are prayed by the Church daily at Night Prayer as we prepare for sleep, which daily prefigures our preparation for the sleep of death, “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised;  because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.”

These words in themselves are a revelation.  As Jesus is presented in the temple as per the Jewish custom, it is he who is presented to the world as it’s true light.  Today is another epiphany – another revelation of who Jesus is – and so it is another moment – the final moment – of the Christmas event.

Simeon’s words describing Christ as the light to enlighten the pagans has meant that this feast has been associated with the lighting and blessing candles, symbols of Christ the light.  This feast has also therefore been known as Candlemas.  Christ is not just a light in the world, but He is the light by which everything makes sense.  It is in His light that we can judge the truth of all things.  He is Light from Light, true God from true God as we profess in the Creed.

And so the candles that we use in church – on the altar, and that we carry in procession – that we use in holy Baptism; and of course the great Easter candle used in Holy Week and at funerals and baptisms – these are a sign of “the splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.”

We recall today that the “Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness.  We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him” (Liturgy of the Hours).

=== +++ ===

(1)  Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour, a Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy: Volume I, The Sanctoral Cycle.  Balwyn, Victoria: Freedom, 2012.