02Feb 2 February, Friday. Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

(World Day for Consecrated Life)

Mal 3:1-4. When his messenger comes to the Temple, the worship offered there will again be pleasing to the Lord.

Lk 2:22-40: The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, to be welcomed by the faithful “anawim”, Simeon and Anna.

First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight – indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Gospel: Lk 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.

The Light of Revelation

Homily of Pope John Paul II, inaugurating the World Day for Consecrated Life, 1997

“Together with Simeon and Anna, let us go to meet the Lord in his temple. Let us welcome the light of his Revelation, committing ourselves to spreading it among our brothers and sisters..″, said the Holy Father in his 1997 homily on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. He  made particular reference to the World Day for Consecrated Life, celebrated for the first time that year. Here is the homily, translated from the Italian.

“A light for revelation to the Gentiles” (cf. Lk 2:32). Forty days after his birth, Jesus was taken by Mary and Joseph to the temple to be presented to the Lord (cf. Lk 2:22). In recalling these events, the liturgy intentionally follows the sequence of Gospel events: the completion of the 40 days following Christ’s birth. It does the same later, for the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension into heaven. Three basic elements can be seen in the Gospel event celebrated today: the mystery of the coming, the reality of the meeting and the proclamation of the prophecy.

First of all, the mystery of the coming. The biblical readings we have heard stress the extraordinary nature of God’s coming: the prophet Malachi announces it in a transport of joy, the responsorial psalm sings it and Luke’s Gospel text describes it. We need only listen, for example, to the responsorial psalm: “Lift up, O gates, your lintels … that the king of glory may come in! Who is this king of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle…. The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory” (Ps 23 [24]:7-8, 10). He who had been awaited for centuries enters the temple of Jerusalem he who fulfils the promise of the Old Covenant: the Messiah foretold. The psalmist calls him “the king of glory”. Only later will it become clear that his kingdom is not of this world (cf. Jn 18:36) and that those who belong to this world are not preparing a royal crown for him, but a crown of thorns.

However, the liturgy looks beyond. In that 40-day-old infant it sees the “light” destined to illumine the nations, and presents him as the “glory” of the people of Israel. It is he who must conquer death, as the Letter to the Hebrews proclaims, explaining the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself shared in the same nature” (Heb 2:14), having taken on human nature.

After describing the mystery of the Incarnation, the author to the Hebrews presents the mystery of Redemption: “Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted” (ibid., 2:17-18). This is a deep and moving presentation of the mystery of Christ. The passage from Hebrews helps us to understand better why this coming to Jerusalem of Mary’s newborn Son was a decisive event in the history of salvation. Since it had been built, the temple was awaiting in a most exceptional way the One who had been promised. Thus his coming has a priestly meaning: The true and eternal High Priest enters the temple.

The second characteristic element of today’s celebration is the reality of the meeting. Even if no one was waiting for Joseph and Mary when they arrived hidden among the people at the temple in Jerusalem with the baby Jesus, something most unusual occurs. Here they meet persons guided by the Holy Spirit: the elderly Simeon of whom St Luke writes: “This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:25-26), and the prophetess Anna, who had lived “with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lk 2:36-37). The Evangelist continues: “And coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38). Simeon and Anna: a man and a woman, representatives of the Old Covenant, who, in a certain sense, had lived their whole lives for the moment when the temple of Jerusalem would be visited by the expected Messiah. Simeon and Anna understand that the moment has come at last, and reassured by the meeting, they can face the last phase of their life with peaceful hearts: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk 2:29-30). At this discreet encounter, the words and actions effectively express the reality of the event taking place. The coming of the Messiah has not passed unobserved. It was recognized through the penetrating gaze of faith, which the elderly Simeon expresses in his moving words.

The third element that appears in this feast is prophecy: today truly prophetic words resound. Every day the Liturgy of the Hours ends the day with Simeon’s inspired canticle: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, … a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32). The elderly Simeon adds, turning to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). Thus while we are still at the dawn of Jesus’ life, we are already oriented to Calvary. It is on the Cross that Jesus will be definitively confirmed as a sign of contradiction, and it is there that his Mother’s heart will be pierced by the sword of sorrow.

Today’s feast is enriched this year with a new significance. In fact, for the first time we are celebrating the Day for Consecrated Life. Dear men and women religious and you, dear brothers and sisters, members of secular institutes and societies of apostolic life, you are all entrusted with the task of proclaiming, by word and example, the primacy of the Absolute over every human reality. This is an urgent task in our time, which often seems to have lost the genuine sense of God. Together with the elderly Simeon and the prophetess Anna, let us go to meet the Lord in his temple, to welcome the light of his Revelation, committing ourselves to spreading it in the present time, when we are privileged to live. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of hope and joy, accompany us and grant that all believers may be witnesses to the salvation which God has prepared in the presence of all peoples in his incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of his people Israel Amen!