Feast of the Presentation of the Lord — Gospel: Luke 2:22-40
Forty days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary offer Him to God in accordance with the Law; in the Temple, Simeon and Anna recognize the Infant as the long-awaited Messiah
Pope Benedict XVI sets the scene:
This is the meeting point of the two Testaments, Old and New. Jesus enters the ancient temple; He who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit His people, thus bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and ushering in the last times of salvation.
It is interesting to take a close look at this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the temple, in the great comings and goings of many people, busy with their work: priests and Levites taking turns to be on duty, the numerous devout people and pilgrims anxious to encounter the Holy God of Israel. Yet none of them noticed anything. Jesus was a child like the others, a first-born son of very simple parents.
Even the priests proved incapable of recognizing the signs of the new and special presence of the Messiah and Savior.
Alone two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover this great newness. Led by the Holy Spirit, in this Child they find the fulfillment of their long waiting and watchfulness….
The prophetic attitude of the two elderly people contains the entire Old Covenant which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. Upon seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna understood that He was the Awaited One.
Beyond their representation of the Old Covenant, Simeon and Anna also stand for all of humanity, as Benedict has explained:
In giving a deeper interpretation to these things we understand that at this moment it is God Himself who is presenting His Only-Begotten Son to humanity through the words of the elderly Simeon and the Prophetess Anna.
Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as the “salvation” of humanity, a “light” for all the nations and a “sign that is spoken against,” because He would reveal the thoughts of hearts (cf. Lk 2:29-35).
In the East this Feast was called Hypapante, a feast of encounter. In fact, Simeon and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized Him as the Messiah so long awaited, represent humanity that encounters its Lord in the Church.
Subsequently, this Feast also spread to the West, where above all the symbol of light and the procession with candles which gave rise to the term “Candlemas” developed.
This visible sign is intended to mean that the Church encounters in faith the One who is “the light of men” and in order to bring this “light” into the world, receives Him with the full dynamism of her faith.
Question for reflection: When have I realized that God is faithful to His promises?