Today is one of those wonderful feasts in our calendar that provides an abundance of spirituality and much for us to think about and pray about as we celebrate it.
First, it is the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple when he was forty days old, according to the Jewish law. Thus, we see that Jesus is a Jew, and an obedient one. This is important for all of us, especially for us religious who take a solemn vow of obedience by which we give ourselves in a very special way to the service of God.
Then, we find that Our Lady and Saint Joseph make public and official their poverty. Those who could afford to do so offered a lamb by which to redeem their newborn baby. Those who could not afford a lamb, offered two doves. The Holy Family could not afford a lamb. Jesus and his family were poor. I have no idea how much a lamb would have cost them in relation to our money, or how much a pair of doves, but they gave the less expensive offering. Here is the God who put diamonds and emeralds and rubies and gold and silver into the earth, and pearls into millions of oysters throughout the world, and he can’t afford a lamb when he comes among us as a human being.
Then we have the wonderful old man Simeon, a devout Jew to whom God had given a promise: you will not die until you have seen the Christ. This is the day! He comes into the temple, and some divine message tells him that this baby, asleep in the arms of his young mother and in the care of a carpenter from Galilee, is the promised and much anticipated Savior, the Messiah, the Christ. He thrills with delight as he asks Our Lady to allow him to take the baby into his own arms. But he also knows that his own death is imminent, and that this child is going to spell both great victory for those who accept him as Savior and grief for those who do not. He calls the infant Christ “a sign of contradiction for the fall and the rise of many in Israel.” He also says of him that he is the glory of his own people, Israel—the Jewish people—and a light of revelation to the Gentiles—the non-Jewish world for whom Jesus also came to be our enlightenment. He would one day say, “I am the light of the world.” For this reason, we carry candles today, in fact in medieval England this day was called Candlemas Day.
And finally, today is the birthday of that beautiful prayer of Simeon called in Latin the “Nunc Dimittis.” Those words mean, “Now, dismiss.” Now, dismiss your servant, O Lord. You promised me that I would not die before seeing the coming Savior. Well, this is he. I have seen him; I have held him in my arms. I have spoken to his parents. Now, let me go happily into eternal life where this baby will be the illumination of humanity forever. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.