By Michael Smith
The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord
A Reading from Psalm 43
1 Give judgment for me, O God,
and defend my cause against an ungodly people;
deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.
2 For you are the God of my strength;
why have you put me from you?
and why do I go so heavily while the enemy
3 Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,
and bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling;
4 That I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness;
and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.
5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
and why are you so disquieted within me?
6 Put your trust in God;
for I will yet give thanks to him,
who is the help of my countenance, and my God.
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is 40 days after Christmas and marks the period of time after which a Jewish mother was to go to the temple, the house of God, to be “purified” by the priest so that she could return to the regular life of the community (Lev. 12:1-8). In Mary’s case, this coincided with another responsibility to have her newly born son “presented,” that is redeemed or “bought back,” from God since all firstborn males belonged to the Holy One of Israel (Ex. 13:11-16).
These customs of the Hebrew Testament carried over into the Church as the Gentiles were invited to participate in God’s covenant, although the meanings evolved. In the “churching of women,” new mothers returned to offer thanks for their survival from the perils of childbirth. In our own day, these spiritual instincts live on in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer as “A Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child” (p. 439). Especially for a baby’s first visit to church, before her or his baptism, it is a joyful way to celebrate the miracle of birth.
Share this thanksgiving opportunity with appropriate family, friends, and neighbors. Help them connect with your priest. With the psalmist we pray:
Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me…
that I may go to the altar of God,
to the God of my joy and gladness.
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Western Kansas
Brotherhood of St. Andrew, Louisville, Ky.