The Presentation of the Lord
"My eyes have seen Your salvation"
Entrance Antiphon: Ps 48(47):10-11 — “Your merciful love, O God, we have received in the midst of Your temple. Your praise, O God, like Your name, reaches the ends of the earth; Your right hand is filled with saving justice.”
First Reading: Mal 3:1-4 — “There will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10 — “Who is the king of glory? It is the Lord!”
Second Reading: Heb 2:14-18 — “He had to become like His brothers and sisters in every way.”
Alleluia: Lk 2:32 — “Alleluia, alleluia. A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. Alleluia, alleluia.”
Gospel: Lk 2:22-40— “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”
Communion Antiphon: Lk 2:30-31 — “My eyes have seen Your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the peoples.”
At first, this celebration of the Presentation of the Lord may seem rather strange and out of sequence. We have long since taken down the Christmas decorations and put away the Nativity scenes … at least most of us have, right? Think about it … two Sundays of Ordinary Time have passed during which the adult Jesus has been baptized, begun His public ministry and called His first disciples. But this is where knowledge of Jewish custom and history helps us understand this momentary shift out of Ordinary Time and back to a feast. It also helps to consider Easter and the conclusion of the Easter Season 40 days later on Ascension Thursday.
This weekend’s Gospel, says, “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.” Mosaic Law set this time of purification as 40 days after the birth of a male child – and today is 40 days, inclusive, after Christmas.
What occurred on this holy day took place for countless other Jewish mothers and their sons. The rite of purification included a burnt offering to the Lord – for the wealthy the sacrifice of a one-year old lamb or goat. For the poor, two turtle doves or two young pigeons, as Mary does here. As her firstborn son, Jesus is also consecrated to the Lord, and while this does not have to take place in a temple, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem for this purpose.
The symbolism of this should not to be lost on us. In bringing Jesus to the Temple, His parents are giving back the very gift that God has given them. This gesture of whole-hearted thanksgiving to God, therefore, becomes the pattern of salvation and the way of all Christian living. This newborn child, the Father’s gift to creation, will in turn offer His whole life back to God in another act of sacrificial self-giving at Calvary. The child who is presented in the Temple of Jerusalem will one day die in this same city, destroying this Temple and raising a new one.
Simeon and Anna, just and pious people, were also present in the Temple. Their hearts were full of expectant hope in the fulfillment of the promises God had made to Israel about her redemption. Together, they represent all who ever longed for the coming of the Messiah and for the redemption of humanity.
As Simeon says, this child is the revelation of God’s glory. Jesus fulfills the title given to Him in an earlier part of Saint Luke’s Gospel, where He is described as Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of David His father (1:32). He is the very gift of God to us, long promised through the words of Malachi: the one who will fill the Temple with the very presence of God.