The Presentation of our Lord
Ps. 84 or Ps. 24:7-10
Forty days after his birth, Jesus was presented in the temple, given back to God. Then, with the payment of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, he was redeemed, that is, returned to his parents with the understanding that he belonged wholly to God. In a real sense, this is true not only of every child, but of everything. “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (I Chron. 29:14). Nothing is truly appreciated until it is seen as a gift from God, until its origin is traced in wonder to that which cannot be seen and which can never be fully known. God is the inexhaustible source of all being. The dignity of persons and things is rooted in this conviction, not as a proposition to which we give only intellectual ascent, but as something we “know and feel” by the direct action of God in the human heart.
Imagine the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Think about it, feel it, and so enter biblical space and time. Jesus is presented in the temple and then returned to the world. He is returned to us, we being represented by Simeon, a man anointed with the Holy Spirit, one who was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel,” and also by the prophet Anna, a woman of great age, who, upon seeing the child, “began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). We are represented no less by the parents of Jesus, whose loving arms carry him in faith, hope, and love to their home in Nazareth. The universal joy of seeing and holding this child is famously expressed in The Song of Simeon. “Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel” (Canticle 17, BCP, p. 93).
Taking up the child Jesus is also taking up the cross. This does not diminish the joy of holding him, but shows rather the depths to which love will go to save us. Simeon said to Mary what is being said to us now, “This child is destined for the falling and 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” (Luke 2:34-35). We are exposed and opened by the sword of Christ, exposed in the sin we bear and exposed in hope of forgiveness and life. A broken and contrite heart is the home of God. “Harden not your hearts, as your forebears did in the wilderness, at Meribah, and on that day in Massah, when they tempted me” (Ps. 95:8). The Spirit of Jesus is the Living Flame of Love that tenderly wounds the soul in its deepest center (St. John of the Cross). By his wounds we are healed, that is, by the application of his wounds to us we are made pure and clean. The heart is painfully healed by Christ the Great Physician. “He is like a refiners fire and like a fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver . . . and refines them like gold and silver” (Mal. 3:2-3).
Here joy and sorrow have kissed each other, and their union is the one flesh of One Risen Body.
Look It Up: The Collect
Think About It: Love purifies to make new and clean.