Today, we celebrate the feast of Our Lord’s Presentation, in the Temple, characterized by the mention of light.
But who is the light? As the Gospel of John squarely tells us, Christ is the Light. I am personally touched by some 24 times which the Fourth Evangelist used the word light. Obviously, in this gospel the light is Jesus himself. Already in the Prologue we find some bold affirmations in this direction. The evangelist is introducing the theme of light as one one of its seven themes of the entire gospel (the others being life, darkness, witness, faith, glory, and truth). What amazes the reader is that the word light (φῶς) is contrasting darkness (σκοτία). As the Jesuit Catholic biblical scholar Fr Raymond Brown SJ, tells us in his book The Gospel According to John, the prologue is “an early Christian hymn, probably stemming from Johannine circles, which has been adapted to serve as an overture to the Gospel narrative of the career of the incarnate Word.”
It is so informative that within this Christian liturgical hymn one immediately encounters the eternal struggle between good and evil. If one looks more closely at the text one notices that in verse five, σκοτία has the article and is the subject. Moreover, the pronoun αὐτὸ (it) refers to the light and is the object of the verb, hence the phrase is translated as the darkness has not overcome it. The darkness dominion itself doomed to fail simply because one ray of light is incredibly enough to weaken and, in the process, defeat it completely.
Within the Prologue of St John’s Gospel we come to know that Jesus is the light. John says in verse 9: The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. Throughout that extraordinary gospel we find other bold states which clearly indicate that Christ is the Light. I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12). As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5). I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness (John 12:46).
In the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Jesus is presented as the Light of the Gentiles. Powerful is the affirmation of Simeon in his Canticle when he says that the child Jesus is a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel (Luke 2:32). Will not this solemn declaration about the personhood of Christ not being carried, later on, into the plain of Jesus’ pre-existence in the Prologue of St John where we find in John 9:5 that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world?
Another interesting point which can intrigue us all and directly relates to today’s feast of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple is that that we can become children of God through the Light, Jesus. Even St Paul talks about becoming children of God through Christ. But how? St Paul, in his characteristic manner, tells us in his Letter to the Galatians, in its third chapter: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:27).
All of us, as baptized, are called to put on Christ, to take on Christ’s life and make it our own. But today the Church celebrates the Day of Consecrated Life since the latter is deepening of our common baptismal call. That is why the Church, wisely, did not institute consecrated life as a sacrament. Every form of consecrated life has its origins in the baptismal commitment of the faithful.
In this feast we pray for all consecrated men and women to be people of hope. In these difficult times we are living in, we desperately need hope. And hope is not a virtue in the air but it is incarnated in people who are attracted by the light of Christ. Beautiful, in this regard, is the reflection Pope Francis made during his homily for the 24th World Day For Consecrated Life in his Eucharistic concelebration with the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic life on Saturday, 1 February 2020:
My eyes have seen your salvation. The eyes of Simeon saw salvation because they were expecting it (cf. v. 25). They were eyes that were waiting, full of hope. They were looking for the light and then saw the light of the nations (cf. v. 32). They were aged eyes, but burning with hope. The gaze of consecrated men and women can only be one of hope. Knowing how to hope. Looking around, it is easy to lose hope: things that don’t work, the decline in vocations… There is always the temptation to have a worldly gaze, one devoid of hope. But let us look to the Gospel and see Simeon and Anna: they were elderly, alone, yet they had not lost hope, because they remained in communion with the Lord. Anna “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37). Here is the secret: never to alienate oneself from the Lord, who is the source of hope. We become blind if we do not look to the Lord every day, if we do not adore him. To adore the Lord.
Let us pray for all consecrated people today to be always men and women of hope for us by keep looking at the Lord Jesus to whom they have given their lives too. May they be for us humble and convincing examples of how to adore the Lord and make others adore Him with them!