The celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a celebration of light and love. In the light of the Christ child the full measure of God’s love for us is revealed. God has sent his only Son into the world to become a sacrifice for our sins. God gave to us his very best and his most beloved, his only Son. As John the evangelist tells us in his gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (Jn 3,16) This ancient feast can take us as far back as the beginning of creation when Cain and Abel came before the Lord to offer the first fruits of their harvest. Abel offered to the Lord his very best and purest lamb, Cain’s offering was not so generous. Cain failed to give God his very best. Every good gift comes from above and is a blessing from God the Father. All life is a gift of God and a blessing bestowed upon those who are called to be stewards of the good things of God. It has long been an understanding that the first fruits of our blessings belongs to God. This extends also to the children that are born to us and are a blessing from God.
Our faith informs us that all life comes from God and belongs to God. We are stewards of that life. Our children are not our own, they are destined to be children of God. They have their own light that must shine out into the world. Our own lives are not our own. As St. Paul reminds us, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. This keeps us mindful of the sanctity of human life. Our lives are a gift from God and meant to be consecrated to him in holiness. As St. Paul encourages us in the letter to the Romans, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.” We are meant to offer to God our very best self, holy and full of light and life.
According to the ancient law the first born child belonged to God and was to be sacrificed, or presented to the Lord in the temple. The parents could then redeem the child with a sacrifice offered in place of the child, usually a lamb, but for the poor two pigeons could be substituted. This would also signal the end of a time of isolation (early time’s family leave) and the rites of purification would also be followed. Mary and Joseph are following this ancient rite in the gospel when they encounter Simeon and Anna in the Temple.
Both Simeon and Anna see something special in the child Jesus. Jesus is for them a “light of revelation”. Through this child they see the ancient promises and hopes of Israel fulfilled. As Simeon proclaims, “your word has been fulfilled.” In the light of the Christ-child Simeon and Anna see their lives as having meaning and purpose and their hearts are filled with joy. Through the light of the Christ-child their minds and hearts are opened to eternity and to the salvation of all nations. Even in their advanced age, everything looks new and fresh in the light of a new dawn in Jesus. Jesus brings new joy to their hearts and they are now able to rest in this peace.
Jesus is also a light of revelation to all of us and helps us to see life in a new light. Through the light of Christ we can see the Father’s love and close presence in our world today. Jesus reveals to us the Father and manifests his mercy to us all. In the light of revelation we are able to look upon the face of God. God is love and reveals his love to us in Christ Jesus. Through the light of revelation that is Jesus we can also see ourselves in a new light and realize that we are also children of light and children of God. The light of Jesus is a light of truth in which we discover our true selves and see the beauty in all others. In the light of revelation we see others in the world as part of a great family of faith and not as strangers and enemies.
Like Simeon, Jesus is placed into our hands as a light that shines into the darkness and drives away all evil and every shadow that has been cast upon our lives. In the light of Christ we see the fulfillment of all of our hopes and we see how beautiful life can be when it is illuminated by the light of Christ’s presencewhich reveals to us the love of the Father. We draw this light that we hold in our hands into our hearts so that we may always live in the light of Christ. We see in this light the direction our lives must take so that we might bring the light of Christ to all people and walk always in the light, accomplishing the works of light in our lives. In this way we share the joy of Simeon and Anna as we see our hope for salvation fulfilled.