The Presentation of the Lord

This weekend is Saturday the 1 and Sunday the 2 February, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, beginning the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time.

Tenebrae, directed by Nigel Short, sing the song of Simeon from Rachmaninov’s Vespers: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples”.  As I listen, can I become aware that I am in God’s presence now, that I too am God’s servant, and that I too am part of this story of salvation?

This day marks the completion of forty days since the birth of Jesus, when Mary and Joseph took the child to the Temple in Jerusalem. The requirement in Law was for Mary to be 'cleansed', the completion of her purification following the birth of a male child. Until that day, she could touch no holy thing nor enter the sanctuary. Yet on seeing the holy family, Simeon praised God and acclaimed the infant as 'the light to enlighten the nations' and the prophet Anna gave thanks and proclaimed him her Redeemer. The image of Christ as the Light has led to the celebration of light countering darkness, with candles often taking a central place in the observance. In this weekend’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, we hear the story of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.

We get a picture of Simeon in this reading as an old man, who’s been waiting for many years in faith and in hope, looking forward to the coming of the chosen one, the one who would bring liberation and peace to a troubled world.  Can you identify with him?  Can you imagine what those years were like for him?  Perhaps there are hopes that you have held in your heart for many years, waiting in faith for their fulfilment?

The Good News is that Simeon is not disappointed: the One he’s been waiting for all his life enters his temple.  With the eyes of faith, Simeon recognises who this little baby is, and praises God.  Imagine for a moment Simeon’s feelings at that moment, as he takes the child in his arms.

As you hear the story again, listen especially to what Simeon says – his words to Mary and Joseph and his words to God himself – what he has to say about this child, the long-expected Messiah.

Can I talk to God now about what I long for, what I am waiting for?  - and what signs I would recognise of these hopes of mine being fulfilled?