Presentation of the Lord
February 02, 2020
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

 

 

Collect

Almighty ever-living God,
we humbly implore your majesty
that, just as your Only Begotten Son
was presented on this day in the Temple
in the substance of our flesh,
so, by your grace,
we may be presented to you with minds made pure.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

 Proper Chants

 Introit

 

Behold, the Sovereign Lord is coming; kingship, government and power are in his hands. Ps/. Endow the King with your judgment, O God, and the King's son with your righteousness. O God, give your judgment to the king, *to a king’s son your justice, that he may judge your people injustice, *and your poor in right judgment.

 (The Offertory and Communion are not available in English.  The following hymn is from the Orthodox liturgy).

 

O Virgin Mother full of grace,

accomplishing the Mystery,

transcending every human mind,

with heaven’s host in company.

 

The Prophet Simeon once held

within his arms the mighty God,

Creator of the law, Who stands

and reigns in heaven: Lord and God.

 

And having willed it thus to pass,

to save mankind from settled fate,

God came from a Virgin’s womb,

to share our low and humble state.

 

Your praise, O Virgin Mother pure

flows on every human tongue;

because of Christ, your firstborn Son,

You stand extolled and praised in song.

 

Lift up your eyes to Him on high

you princes ruling every land.

Behold our Lord and Christ is borne

on holy Simeon’s humble hands.

 

Our earth, on seeing You, O God,

now shakes with fear throughout the land.

For how can you, transcending all,

be held within a human hand?

 

Liturgy of the Word

First Reading  Malachi 3:1-4

 "Behold, I send 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, behold, 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 sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Second Reading Hebrews 2:14-18

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil,and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.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.

Gospel Luke 2:22-32

And 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 male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said 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, and 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. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."

Reflection Questions

  1. What are the “right offerings” you are presenting to the Lord these days?
  2. How are you finding help in time of temptation?
  3. How do your eyes see salvation?

Catena Nova

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor 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. 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. The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God. The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. (St. Sophronios of Jerusalem)

Who on this earth could even closely compare with the Lord in patient endurance of suffering except His Most holy Mother? The elder Symeon, adorned with snowy hair like a white swan, prophetically foresaw her future sufferings and likened those sufferings to a sword piercing her soul. One sword had pierced her soul when the righteous Joseph doubted her at the time of her pregnancy; the second, when she had to flee to Egypt before Herod's sword; and the third, fourth and many, many others when she saw the hatred and intrigues of the Jewish elders against her Son day in and day out during the whole time of His preaching and miracle-working among men and women. But the sharpest sword pierced her soul when she stood beneath the Cross of her Son and Lord. This sword was foreseen and prophesied to her by the holy, aged Symeon. Majestic and moving was her silence, beneath which she covered all her pains and all the wounds of her heart as with a veil. In the twilight, all these countless pains that had accumulated in her most pure heart shone as an inextinguishable flame of faith and hope in God and dedication to God. This handmaid of the Lord, unsurpassable in nobility! She saw herself clearly in God's plan for the salvation of mankind; she read about herself in the prophets; she spoke with the angels - God's messengers. Therefore, all that came upon her, joy or pain, she knew came from God. She was not jubilant in her joy nor did she murmur in her pain, but rather she remained silent and laid it all up in her heart. O Most-holy Virgin Theotokos, help us that we may be, like thee, submissive to the will of God. To thy Son and Lord, through thee, be glory and praise forever. Amen. (St. Nikolai Velimirovich)

The glorious St. Simeon also was very happy…to carry Him as did Our Lady…we do this when we endure with love the labors and pains He sends us, that is to say, when the love which we bear to the Law of God makes us find His yoke easy and pleasing, so that we love these pains and labors, and gather sweetness in the midst of bitterness. This is nothing else but to carry Our Lord in our arms. Now if we carry Him in this way, He will, without doubt, Himself carry us. (St. Francis de Sales)

The God we worship has taken our physical material selves seriously because God declared about everything that God had created – matter and spirit, everything, not just that it was good, God said it was “very good”. That is why we say in the Nicene Creed: ‘maker of all there is, visible and invisible’. That matter is not recalcitrant, hostile and antagonistic to the spirit and so God could and did become a real human being, a real baby, belonging to a particular couple who have names, who lived in a real, a particular village, Nazareth, in an actual, real part of the world God created, belonging to an actual, real community with particular and specific laws, rules and customs.  So this baby’s parents obeyed the law and brought the baby to be redeemed as the first-born male who belonged therefore to God. God took human history seriously and so fulfilled promises God had made earlier to a Simon and to a faithful widow, Anna. (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

Candlemas Song

I was not there.
I did not dream my way
up prayer-worn Temple steps
as you did, Christ-Mother, that day.

I was not there.
I did not scan the gloom
or clutch a hand for courage
in the Temple waiting-room.

I was not there.
I did not hear the praise
which ancient ones sang of your child
at the midnight of their days.

I was not there.
I did not feel the sting
which bitter-sweet horizons
of your motherhood will bring.

But I am here.
And I would know a birth
to bring Divine Light’s love
into an aching, longing earth.

Yes, I am here.
And I would do my part.
O let a rising blade of Spring
strike fire into my heart. (Simon Marshall)

Candlemas

The Angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,
Old Simeon's tapers shine.

And then for eight long weeks and more
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the high candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer;
While song is hush'd, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air.

And while the sword in Mary's soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And still, though Candlemas be spent
And Alleluias o'er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store. (St. John Henry Newman)

 A Song for Simeon

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation. (TS Eliot)

Homily

FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD

Readings: Mal. 3:1-4; Hb. 2:14-18; Lk. 2:22-40

What Did You Expect?

 

            I’m always dismayed by Christmas trees placed by the curb on St. Stephen’s Day.    Mine lasts until Epiphany.  But there’s still a Christmas wreath on my door and the crèche with the Magi is still up, though both will come down tomorrow, for it’s been 40 days since Christmas and its last vestiges will be gone.  But I’ll bet it’s not what you’d expect at such a late date.

            For who still remembers this Christmas past? The decorations have been down forever.  Sales are over.  Gifts tucked away in drawers. Children’s toys grown tiresome.  Holiday pounds to be shed. But the Church isn’t ready to forget Christmas past.  Not just yet.  So we have a feast with an echo of Christmas about it: the Feast of the Presentation when Joseph and Mary brought the Child Jesus to the temple.  How unexpected!

            Indeed, everything about this feast is unexpected.  Just imagine old Simeon there in the temple.  The Holy Spirit revealed to him that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord (G).  But who knows what Simeon was expecting?  A powerful king with sword in hand to defeat the Roman invaders? Maybe. Or a glorious priest who would make the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem… please the Lord as in the days of old, as in years gone by? (cf. I). Possibly. Or a great prophet whose preaching would convict wrong-doers everywhere and pronounce God’s judgment on a sinful world?  Perhaps.

            These were common expectations of what the Messiah would be like: a great king a great priest, a great prophet. But then, the Lord whom Simeon sought, came suddenly to his temple in the form of a little child (cf. I). One among many who came that day to fulfill the law of the Lord. Practically lost in the crowd, unnoticed. And not merely a child, but the child of simple parents, who made the offering of the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.  More than that, they came from an obscure place--the town of Nazareth in the region of Galilee--a place looked down upon by the religious elite of Jerusalem as a backwater contaminated by Gentiles (G).  How unexpected!

           But God is like that, you know.  Always showing up where you’d least expect, where we might never think of looking unless we too, like Simeon, are in the Spirit (G).  I’m sure you’ve heard of the work of Sister Helen Prejean with convicts on death row.  She tells how she came to recognize the image of God in people condemned to death for terrible crimes, the presence of God in people few others could see as a temple of the Holy Spirit: even though they had been refined like gold or like silver (I) by repentance and Sr. Helen’s unconditional love. For she, like Jesus, is not ashamed to call brothers and sisters (cf. Heb. 2:11) those whom others see fit only for judgment and condemnation.  Or as Archbishop Roman Williams asks, “How difficult is it for us to see the face of God as victim in a criminal in prison?….the hopelessness and self-loathing, even the impotent anger of the jailed murderer, all that constitutes him or her a trapped and helpless victim, must speak to us, in however distorted an accent, of the Lamb of God.”  How unexpected!

            Come to think of it, Simeon also foresaw the death of the Victim Messiah. How this child was destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be contradicted.  And how his mother too would share in the contradiction Christ would embody--a sword piercing her as well (cf. G).  In other words, Simeon saw how it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10). He saw how the Child would one day be a “dead man walking” himself--condemned to death by the state--to expiate the sins of the people (II).  How unexpected!

            But that’s how God comes among us:  Not as a king like David to rule as one strong and mighty (RP) -- but as a king who bears a crown of thorns.  Not as a mediator like Moses, to speak with God on our behalf atop a mountain shrouded by cloud and thunder--but as a merciful and faithful high priest…tested through what he suffered (II).  Nor finally as a fearsome prophet like Elijah, whose coming we cannot endure, and before whom we cannot stand (cf. I) -- but as one like his brothers and sisters in every way (II).  How unexpected!

            And so God comes to us today.  Not in the strong and powerful, but in the weak and the poor.  Not in remote and distant places, but in the people next to you, members of the same body.  And not in chariots of fire, or wearing special dress, nor even the mantle of authority, but in the simple gifts we present in this liturgy: Our own version of turtledoves and pigeons, namely, gifts of bread and wine.  These are the offerings that please the Lord (I).   How unexpected!

            And even more unexpectedly, we receive these gifts as his body and blood since the children share in blood and flesh (II)Through Jesus Christ, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for [God’s] people Israel (cf. G).  Who lives and reigns, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

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