Sunday, February 2, 2020

In the Temple

The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is the beginning of his self-offering to the Father. Obeying the Law, Mary and Joseph make the sacrifice of obedience that scripture required. Jesus is caught up in their self-offering, which is the nature of authentic obedience to the loving will of God. Indeed, this is the beginning of his journey to the Cross.

Today although liturgically we are in the midst of Ordinary Time, we look back to Christmas and Christ’s manifestation in the world. And at the same time, we look ahead to Lent and anticipate the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s total manifestation in his death and resurrection. “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.”

Saint Ephrem the Syrian will compare Simeon taking the Christ Child in his arms to the priest lifting up the consecrated bread and wine during the Mass.  And he says surprisingly that in this mystery, it is truly Simeon who is being lifted up. For Christ makes himself an offering to the Father, so that we too may be offered up. And as the consecrated bread and wine are lifted up, so are we. In his self-offering Jesus gives the Father everything, the entire universe, all of us, all complete.

Faithful to our own duties and responsibilities day by day, week by week, year by year, we are like Simeon and Anna returning to the Temple day after day, year after year. As we go about our often humdrum duties, we are completing the universe, bringing to maturity and fruition God’s presence and purpose in every situation in which we find ourselves. So it is that we become a gift in Christ to God the Father and to the world and participate in the process by which Christ completes the universe and proclaims to the Father: “It is finished; it is yours.” 

Each day as Christ is presented to us; we want to be ready to receive him. Each evening as we reflect on the day that has passed,  we want to say with Simeon, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace…for my own eyes have seen the salvation you have prepared…”

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Giovanni di Paolo, Siena 1398–1482, c. 1435, tempera and gold on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. Excerpts from Dom Damian’s homily for today’s feast, with reflections from Rowan Williams.