When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Lk. 2:22). ⧾
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and acknowledge Him as a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory of Israel. This Feast brings to completion our joyful celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord. The candles that we blessed and that we will use in our worship and in our homes are a reminder that Christ is the light of the world. I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (Jn. 8:12).
Our Lady and St. Joseph take Jesus to the Temple that the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law might be fulfilled. They duly make their offering, and in the course of what was a liturgical celebration, they receive further knowledge about this Child; destined to be both a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory of Israel and a sign that will be opposed. Here there is both light and darkness, both joy and consternation. Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother…‘and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed’ (Lk. 2:33-35). These words allude to a Mystery still to unfold; as it will be in the course of the Child’s life and especially in His Passion and Death. This is the unfolding of the Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation, at work also in our own lives.
Our Lord offers to all of us and to each one of us individually the possibility of being made partners in this Mystery. He desires to associate us with His redeeming sacrifice; and as the Gospel reveals to us, He does this with those who were to be its first beneficiaries. This is achieved supremely in the case of his Mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 618). Simeon’s words presage Our Lady’s share in the Passion; they are a glimpse on Calvary, when the rejection of Jesus by sinners will bear heavily on His Mother as it does even now on her sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
If we are to come to a greater understanding of what took place in the Temple, and profit from this Feast, first, we must be very clear about the purpose of the Holy Family’s visit to the Temple. They went to fulfill the prescribed rites according to the Law of Moses; just as we do when we come to Mass on Sunday and keep the third commandment: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. More importantly however and ultimately more significantly, Our Lady and St. Joseph went to the Temple to adore God and to render to Him what we as creatures owe God in all justice. The virtue of religion disposes us to have this same attitude. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge Him as God, as the Creator and Saviour, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite merciful Love (# 2096). It further explains that the worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world (# 2097). When we turn in on ourselves we undertake a journey that can only end in frustration. Selfishness of any kind is never fulfilling.
It is abundantly evident that where God is worshipped in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4: 22) man is indeed free, for his choices are directed towards God, our beatitude; and so to be religious people in this sense means that we endeavour to make our choices always in view of our ultimate good. We might call this an eschatological approach to life; a perspective that is never deprived of our ultimate goal or end. In the prophetic literature and unbroken tradition of our faith, there is a constant call to conversion and to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Cf. Lk. 12:31). Unless we worship the one God in spirit and in truth, we risk falling into idolatry not only of the world but of the self. We become our own gods. When this happens we are doomed and those closest to us are doomed with us.
For centuries now, an ever more common ignoring of God, a refusal even to acknowledge His existence has hardened into habit, into a vice. Many are oblivious of God, wilfully so; and many, as the Prophet Hosea says, perish from lack of this knowledge. How chilling his words: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The end product of irreligion is a purposeless existence; souls desert-like in barrenness, bereft of the knowledge of their Heavenly Father and of their destiny. These are the legion of souls in our day unacquainted with the graces, lights and consolations which follow upon knowing that God is our loving Father. In the span of two generations more or less we have witnessed and experienced the downward spiral of hostility to God with a speed that is both reckless and exponentially destructive. As a result, our contemporary culture is guided and dictated by a politico-cultural force whose three pillars are sodomy, infanticide and communism. As it is, increasingly, public office is inaccessible to those who refuse to stand on these pillars. Make note of these because in our nation and elsewhere they have become the criteria for engagement in any cultural or political undertaking. Madness.
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (Lk. 2: 34). The Church is no less a sign of contradiction, but only when she is faithful to her Lord and Saviour. Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets (Lk. 6:26). In a world that continues along its downward spiral away from God and the things of God, we have indeed become a sign of contradiction; and we will increasingly experience the persecution of the world. Of this we can be certain. Buckle up! We need God’s grace and strength to sustain us; and we must pray for the grace of perseverance. From this holy Temple Our Lord says to us today: Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light (Jn. 12:35-36). Yes, this is our task; and today’s Feast reminds us of our much needed witness to the world. You are he light of the world… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:14-16). ⧾