Friday, February 2, 2018

Presentation of the Child

When Mary and Joseph brought the Child Jesus into the Temple, Simeon held out his arms to receive him. As Ruth Burrows describes the moment: “An old man stretches out for the Child; the Child comes to him like a bird to its nest.” I think that is a wonderful image! “An old man stretches out for the Child; the Child comes to him like a bird to its nest.” (At the end of the Gospel, it seems that their roles will be reversed: it will be Christ with arms outstretched on the Cross to receive Simeon and all of us into the Kingdom of his Father.)

But here this morning, at the Presentation of the Lord, here is a picture of what can be, of what should be. “He always comes to waiting arms.” Arms outstretched to him is something we have all done, especially in times of need or distress, of desolation and uncertainty, and in moments of great desire, gratitude and joy.

Yet even our reaching out to the One who comes to save us is itself his gift. It doesn’t begin with us, for it is he who first moves our hearts, quickens our hopes and expectation, and opens our eyes to recognize his sudden entrance into our lives, our ordinary and incomplete lives which he makes the privileged place of encounter with God. “Suddenly the Lord whom we seek comes to the temple.” To waiting arms “he comes like a bird to its nest.” 

Today, also known as Candlemas, Jesus comes to us as light. Let us ask him for the courage and desire to extricate ourselves from all that enmeshes us, from all our inner shadows. Let us ask him to show us how our arms are kept back from stretching towards him. Let us begin all over again to live for him - arms outstretched and a candle in our hand!

Today we receive a candle, symbol of “Christ our Light.” Let us receive it today with great faith and ask Christ with our heart’s strength to enkindle a fire of love within us. Just as it is the nature of a candle to consume itself as it burns, so let us hold back nothing of ourselves for ourselves, but spend ourselves for the Lord and his friends—just as he did for us.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Presentation in the Temple with the Angel, c. 1630, etching, 4 x 3 in. Alva de Mars Megan Chapel Art Center, Saint Anselm College. Meditation by Father Dominic