The Presentation, Holbein the Elder
The Meeting of the Son With the Father and the Brothers
Paris, January 31, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – The Hypapánte – February 2, 2014
1) A meeting of pure, humble and obedient hearts.
February 2 this year falls on a Sunday and today the liturgy, instead of continuing the celebration of “ordinary time “, takes us back to the “Christmas season ” , the ” start time ” of our salvation, to recall the mystery of the newborn Son of God who observed all the provisions laid down in the Law of Moses.
Let us contemplate Mary and Joseph while they go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer Jesus to the Lord ” just as it is written in the law of the Lord: “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord” and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord””. (Luke 2, 24-25. Once again we have been told the poverty of the parents, who don’t have the opportunity to offer a lamb but with a heart full of emotion offer all they have: two small birds, innocent and pure. They do not know that the one they hold in their arms will be indicate by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God.”
The offering of Jesus to the Father, accomplished in the Temple, is the prelude to his total offering on the cross. This act of obedience to a legal ritual , the fulfillment of which neither Jesus nor Mary were required to do , is also another lesson of humility like the one which was given to us at Christmas, when we beheld the Son of God and His Mother in the moving but humble frame of the manger.
God is manifested in weakness, in poverty, in the innocence of childhood and in purity and only the pure in heart see God. Those that have changed their mind and those who have renounced the way of humanly seeing and thinking, can “see” God manifested in the lives of men and can understand what God does.
Among these pure in heart are Simeon and Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.
Pure heart and pure eyes allow Simeon to recognize in the child, brought to the Temple by a humble pair, the promised Messiah, the anointed of the Lord foretold by the prophets and awaited for centuries. The old man Simeon, “righteous and devout,awaiting the consolation of Israel” (cf. Lk 2:25 ), moved by the Holy Spirit goes into the temple, welcomes the child into his arms and blesses God with a touched heart because the salvation for him, for his people and for all people has come. With his eyes and with his heart the old prophet recognizes in that child the Savior but also prophesies that the long-awaited and invoked light will be for many a sign of contradiction and not of resurrection, because they will not be able to welcome the light of His word which reveals the thoughts of every human heart.
The other humble person who receives God visiting the Temple is Anna. This woman has by the grace of God, the happiness and the good fortune to see the face of God in the child Jesus. I believe it is legitimate to look at this woman as the representative of all mankind, whose fate is to see the face of God and reflect in it. This widow represents all humanity that is a widow because doesn’t have a groom, her “other side”. The other part of man is God. This lady has the grace to see him face to face and to rejoice in the presence of the bridegroom, as the bridegroom rejoices in the presence of the bride. This woman represents the final marriage of the heavenly Jerusalem, when humanity will meet with the groom. Basically we are all “widows” in anticipation of the wedding. She finally celebrates God, whereas before she was fasting with prayers day and night in the temple, and celebrates God speaking of the Child to those who were waiting for redemption and liberation. This Child is the liberation for all.
2) Two people carry the baby to offer him.
We have presented two people who welcomed the Son of God who “was visiting” his house, and who were able to recognize him in a small child brought by two poor and humble people: Joseph and Mary who offered “their” Son of God. Now let’s look to Saint Joseph and above all to Mary, who is the offering Virgin Mother: “But the Church herself has detected In the heart of the Virgin taking her Son to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (cf. Lk. 2:22) a desire to make an offering, a desire that exceeds the ordinary meaning of the rite” (Blessed John Paul II, Marialis Cultus, # 20). It is this dimension of making the offering that we must understand as the message of today’s feast, so that we can develop in us what we might call the spirituality of the offering which pushes each of us to live life in the total gift of self to God as the Whole of our life.
Brought in the Temple by Mary, accompanied by her husband Joseph, Jesus is offered. As mentioned in the Gospel, Our Lady has been pushed to do it by the ancient Mosaic prescription, under which all the firstborn belonged to the Lord. But in the offering of Christ the prescription is not only observed, it is perfectly fulfilled. By virtue of his participation in our humanity, the Word of God has become “the firstborn among many brethren” and offers himself for their salvation. “For this reason , coming into the world, he says, sacrifice or offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me … Then I said Behold I come to do your will ,O God” ( Heb 10 5-7). Let’s dive now in the contemplation of this act of will by which Jesus Christ made of his life and his humanity a “pleasing sacrifice to God.”
Today we celebrate the divine mysteries above all because we want to thank the Father for a special gift, precious fruit of Christ’s offering: the consecrated life. The fact that there are men and women who follow Christ, loving Him with an undivided heart, fully liberated through the practice of the evangelical advises, finds its root in the gift Christ made of himself on the cross.
Looking to the Consecrated Virgins we are deeply assured that Christ died and rose for us: they proclaim it not so much with words as with their consecrated existence. What is in fact the “core “of the existential decision of these women? It is having decided to belong solely and entirely to the person of Christ: their life is a consecrated life and it is forever. It is the peculiarity of their existence which expresses the radical nature of their being seized by Christ and of letting be seized without putting up any resistance. These consecrated people only want to rest in Christ and to fully adhere to Him (cf. RCV , n 24) , following their model par excellence, Mary who said: ” Behold the handmaid of the Lord , be it done to me according to your word” ( Lk 1 , 38) .
Rooted in full membership in Christ, these consecrated persons become the perfect expression of every Christian life, which is to comply fully with the Lord Jesus. Let’s wish to them to be faithful to their vocation, because in it all the believers, spouses and pastors of the Church, see revealed the deep nature of the Christian life.
In any case I think that today we celebrate above all the feast of the first meeting of Jesus with the Father, to whom, as every first born, He is offered and immediately redeemed. Let’s ask ourselves if we are really ready to offer , along with him, the best of ourselves to God, our Father, so that then ” given back to ourselves,” we can go into the world as a blessing that illuminates the path of men seeking God and gives peace and joy. “Joy does not consist in having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in becoming a gift for others and loving one another “(Benedict XVI, Angelus, and December 13, 2009). It is a blessing that we should ask God for and then share with our brothers and sisters as did Pope Francis at the time of the first meeting with the Church and the world soon after his election.
Patristic Reading – “on Hypapante”
By St. Sophronius of Jerusalem
(“Orat. 3 de Hypapante” 6.7: PG 87, 3, 3291-3293)
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.
Rejoicing with Symeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.
Through Symeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we, too embraced, Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel.
Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.