Feast of The Presentation of the Lord

Presentation-Of-Our-Lord.jpg“Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord’

OPENING PRAYER

Heavenly Father, on this Feast of Candlemas, I recall the gift Mary and Joseph gave to the world by offering baby Jesus to You in the temple. I offer up to You all the children in my family. I place them into Your perfect will and I turn their futures over to You. Help me to let go of my ideas of what they should do with their lives, and show me how to guide them into the purposes for which You created them. Help me to learn from the example of the Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced by the sword of her Son’s pain, how to always trust in Your plans. Holy Family, pray for us.

Amen.

COLLECT

Almighty ever-living God,

we humbly implore your majesty

that, just as your Only Begotten Son

was presented on this day in the Temple

in the substance of our flesh,

so, by your grace,

we may be presented to you with minds made pure.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Mal 3:1-4

Thus says the Lord God:

Lo, I am sending my messenger

to prepare the way before me;

And suddenly there will come to the temple

the LORD whom you seek,

And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.

Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

But who will endure the day of his coming?

And who can stand when he appears?

For he is like the refiner’s fire,

or like the fuller’s lye.

He will sit refining and purifying silver,

and he will purify the sons of Levi,

Refining them like gold or like silver

that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.

Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem

will please the LORD,

as in the days of old, as in years gone by.

 APPLICATION

Malachi’s anticipation of the moment God’s “messenger” comes to the Temple is stark. The arrival will come “suddenly” and his mission will be frightening. He will come with “refiner’s fire” and “fuller’s lye” to refine and purify. Why this fearsome appearance? Because, while the people had returned from exile and were rebuilding their devastated land and Temple, their interior reconstruction had lagged. Their worship life was poor and their priests were woefully negligent (1: 12-13; 2:8). The chosen people were in a state of spiritual bankruptcy. No wonder Malachi (his name means “my messenger”) announced such a stark message about the coming of God’s messenger – who would bring about spiritual purification and renewal. “Then the sacrifice of Judah and Jerusalem will please the Lord, as in the days of old, as in years gone by.”

Malachi came speaking a harsh message and he was not well received (3: 12-14). Nevertheless, he persisted in announcing God’s Word, as did the prophets before him. This rough-sounding message was necessary, if the people were to wake up from their indifference to God’s ways. In the middle of the night it is not a gentle summer breeze that wakes us from a deep sleep, but thunder and lighting – enter the prophet Malachi, who sees the people in a spiritual daze and tries to awaken them with verbal fireworks and thunder.

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament. It doesn’t seem like a very gracious way to end the often eloquent message to the Jewish people. When I was a teenager and would oversleep, my mother would come into my room, shake my feet and call my name, in a voice louder than usual, to wake me for school. I would wake startled – a rough way to begin the day – but I wasn’t late for school! Malachi’s voice was a shout and a warning to wake Israel from its spiritual torpor. The bottom line – his harsh language was a grace, reflecting God’s persistent attempts to call us back into God’s loving embrace.

Malachi prepares the people for the messenger’s abrupt arrival in the Temple to begin the work of “refining and purifying.” His message does get us on the tip-toe of expectation, doesn’t it? It might also get us nervous for what will happen when the messenger arrives. We ask with Malachi, “Who will endure the day of his coming…?”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

PS 24:7, 8, 9, 10

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Lift up, O gates, your lintels;

reach up, you ancient portals,

that the king of glory may come in!

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

Who is this king of glory?

The LORD of hosts; he is the king of glory.

Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord!

READING II

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HEB 2: 14-18

Since the children share in blood and flesh,

Jesus likewise shared in them,

that through death he might destroy the one

who has the power of death, that is, the Devil,

and free those who through fear of death

had been subject to slavery all their life.

Surely he did not help angels

but rather the descendants of Abraham;

therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters

in every way,

that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God

to expiate the sins of the people.

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,

he is able to help those who are being tested.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world. By our first parents’ sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails “captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil”.1 Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action2 and morals.

CCC 609 By embracing in his human heart the Father’s love for men, Jesus “loved them to the end”, for “greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”3 In suffering and death his humanity became the free and perfect instrument of his divine love which desires the salvation of men.4 Indeed, out of love for his Father and for men, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted his Passion and death: “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”5 Hence the sovereign freedom of God’s Son as he went out to his death.6

CCC 635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”7 Jesus, “the Author of life”, by dying destroyed “him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”8 Henceforth the risen Christ holds “the keys of Death and Hades”, so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”9

Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness. A great silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. .. He has gone to search for Adam, our first father, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow Adam in his bonds and Eve, captive with him – He who is both their God and the son of Eve. .. “I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. .. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.”10

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”11 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.12 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.13 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.14

CCC 1520 A particular gift of the Holy Spirit. The first grace of this sacrament is one of strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties that go with the condition of serious illness or the frailty of old age. This grace is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who renews trust and faith in God and strengthens against the temptations of the evil one, the temptation to discouragement and anguish in the face of death.15 This assistance from the Lord by the power of his Spirit is meant to lead the sick person to healing of the soul, but also of the body if such is God’s will.16 Furthermore, “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”17

CCC 2602 Jesus often draws apart to pray in solitude, on a mountain, preferably at night.18 He includes all men in his prayer, for he has taken on humanity in his incarnation, and he offers them to the Father when he offers himself. Jesus, the Word who has become flesh, shares by his human prayer in all that “his brethren” experience; he sympathizes with their weaknesses in order to free them.19 It was for this that the Father sent him. His words and works are the visible manifestation of his prayer in secret.

1 Council of Trent (1546): DS 1511; cf. Heb 2:14.

2 Cf. John Paul II, CA 25.

3 Jn 13:1; 15:13.

4 Cf. Heb 2:10,17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9.

5 Jn 10:18.

6 Cf. Jn 18:4-6; Mt 26:53.

7 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.

8 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.

9 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.

10 Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday: PG 43, 440A, 452C; LH, Holy Saturday, OR.

11 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

12 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

13 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

14 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

15 Cf. Heb 2:15.

16 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1325.

17 Jas 515; cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1717.

18 Cf. Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16.

19 Cf. Heb 2:12, 15; 4:15.

APPLICATION

One of the prime teachings in the letter to the Hebrews is of Christ’s high priesthood. This teaching is coupled with the message about Jesus’ willing self-sacrifice on our behalf. We can see why this selection from Hebrews was chosen for the feast we are celebrating – Jesus’ presentation in the Temple by his parents. Jesus was not born into the priestly tribe of Levi, but he is still called a priest. Hebrews teaches that he is both the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the priest who offered himself as that sacrifice. Christ, our priest has saved us by his death, resurrections and exaltation. Christ has made forgiveness possible and given us both access to God and hope for eternal life.

On this feast Hebrews speaks to why Christ became human. From the perspective of this letter, the devil has power over death. To free us from that power and our fear of death, Christ became one of us. As a human he became our “merciful and faithful high priest,” as well as the sacrifice “to expiate the sins of the people.” Today, our high priest has entered the Temple and the two elderly prophets, who recognize him, announce his arrival and the promise he holds out for us.

GOSPEL

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LK2: 22-32

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,

just as it is written in the law of the Lord,

Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,

and to offer the sacrifice of

a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,

in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.

This man was righteous and devout,

awaiting the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

that he should not see death

before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple;

and when the parents brought in the child Jesus

to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,

he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

Now, Master, you may let your servant go

in peace, according to your word,

for my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and glory for your people Israel.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/020214.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 149 Throughout her life and until her last ordeal1 when Jesus her son died on the cross, Mary’s faith never wavered. She never ceased to believe in the fulfillment of God’s word. And so the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of faith.

CCC 529 The presentation of Jesus in the temple shows him to be the firstborn Son who belongs to the Lord.2 With Simeon and Anna, all Israel awaits its encounter with the Savior-the name given to this event in the Byzantine tradition. Jesus is recognized as the long-expected Messiah, the “light to the nations” and the “glory of Israel”, but also “a sign that is spoken against”. The sword of sorrow predicted for Mary announces Christ’s perfect and unique oblation on the cross that will impart the salvation God had “prepared in the presence of all peoples”.

CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,3 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,4 than for the ordinary People of God.5 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;6 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.7 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,8 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),9 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.10

CCC 583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.11 At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father’s business.12 He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.13 His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.14

CCC 587 If the Law and the Jerusalem Temple could be occasions of opposition to Jesus by Israel’s religious authorities, his role in the redemption of sins, the divine work par excellence, was the true stumbling-block for them.15

CCC 618 The cross is the unique sacrifice of Christ, the “one mediator between God and men”.16 But because in his incarnate divine person he has in some way united himself to every man, “the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery” is offered to all men.17 He calls his disciples to “take up [their] cross and follow [him]”,18 for “Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps.”19 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.20 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.21

Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.22

CCC 695 Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,23 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre-eminently King David.24 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”25 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.26 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.27 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.28 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute – in their union with the humanity of the Son of God – that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:29 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression.

CCC 711 “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”30 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”31

We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.

CCC 713 The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”32 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”33 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

1 Cf. Lk 2:35.

2 Cf. Lk 2:22-39; EX 13:2, 12-13.

3 Lk 2:34.

4 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.

5 Jn 7:48-49.

6 Cf Lk 13:31.

7 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.

8 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.

9 Cf. Mt 6:18.

10 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.

11 Lk 2:22-39.

12 Cf. Lk 2 46-49.

13 Cf. Lk 2 41.

14 Cf. Jn 2 13-14; 5:1, 14; 7:1, 10, 14; 8 2; 10:22-23.

15 Cf. Lk 2:34; 20:17-18; Ps 118:22.

16 1 Tim 2:5.

17 GS 22 # 5; cf. # 2.

18 Mt 16:24.

19 I Pt 2:21.

20 Cf Mk 10:39; Jn 21:18-19; Col 1:24.

21 Cf. Lk 2:35.

22 St. Rose of Lima: cf. P. Hansen, Vita mirabilis (Louvain, 1668).

23 Cf. 1 In 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

24 Cf. Ex 30:22-32; 1 Sam 16:13.

25 Cf. Lk 418-19; Isa 61:1.

26 Cf. Lk 2:11,26-27.

27 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

28 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

29 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

30 Isa 43:19.

31 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Lk 2:25, 38.

32 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

33 Phil 2:7.

APPLICATION

Luke describes the arrival to the Temple of the one sent by God. Surprise! God’s messenger is a baby! Just when we expect God to come smashing and overturning, scattering and frightening, for justifiable reasons, God surprises us. Which summarizes the whole Bible, doesn’t it? We expect what we deserve and God comes to our rescue with surprising forgiveness and help.

Who will recognize this long-anticipated arrival? Especially since the one who comes doesn’t fit the previous descriptions and expectations? Not the priests, nor those on the seats of power – but two long-praying and alert seniors. Since our society worships at the altar of youth and looks over the heads of our seniors – here’s a chance, in the spirit of Anna and Simeon, to praise the faithful, courageous and wise citizens in our congregations.

How many years have they come to church? How often have they taught our young; volunteered for parish celebrations; prepared food for those grieving after a funeral; counted the collection on Monday mornings and generously donated to building campaigns and charitable events? I could go on for pages. Anna and Simeon’s prophetic spirits are still with us, opening our ears and eyes to God’s surprising epiphanies among us.

Who were Simeon and Anna? Where did they come from and what theological training did they have for their important roles? We don’t know. They certainly didn’t belong to the ranks of the Temple officials. They were faithful children of Israel who kept their eyes fixed on God and did not lost sight of God’s gracious action on Israel’s behalf. Their training came from God. Luke tells us that Simeon was led by the Spirit; Anna “never left the Temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Both represent the best of Israel, both had “advanced degrees” in prayer and vigilance and hope. They suggest to us that recognizing God’s ways comes through fidelity and prayerful vigilance. Their devotion to God made them available and open to God’s revelation.

Simeon correctly predicts that some will follow Christ and others will turn against him. This is the story of the rest of Luke’s gospel. The choice to follow or reject Jesus’ way is ours to make. The rejection of Mary’s son would be a sword to pierce her heart.

Anna is another example of God’s care for the least. She is a widow and so dependent on family and others for her well being; she is a woman in a male-oriented society and she is aged. Her vulnerabilities are succinctly spelled out in Luke’s description of her. But so is her greatness noted. She persists in her trust of God and is the first to proclaim God’s redemption. “She gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”

In a year when our church is reminding each of us of our role as evangelists, Anna might be called “the patron saint of evangelists.” What is our role as evangelists? Anna shows us: we are to be persistent in prayer, despite the difficulties, trusting in God’s goodness and, when the opportunity arises, speak a word of enlightenment, just as Anna did.

Applications written by Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P. and used with permission from first impressions.com.

BENEDICTUS

God Loved Us First

God loved you first!” … One should take this sentence as literally as can be, and I try to do that. For it is truly the great power in our lives and the consolation that we need. And it’s not seldom that we need it. He loved me first, before I myself could love at all. It was only because he knew me and loved me that I was made. So I was not thrown into the world by some operation of chance, as Heidegger says, and now have to do my best to swim around in this ocean of life, but I am preceded by a perception of me, an idea and a love of me. They are present in the ground of my being. What is important for all people, what makes their life significant, is the knowledge they are loved. The person in a difficult situation will hold on if he knows Someone is waiting for me, Someone wants me, and needs me. God is there first and loves me. And that is the trustworthy ground on which my life is standing and on which I myself can construct it.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Psalm 24

A Psalm of David.

The earth and all its fullness belong to the Lord: the whole world and all that dwells in it.

For he has founded it upon the seas, and he has prepared it upon the rivers.

Who will ascend to the mountain of the Lord? And who will stand in his holy place?

The innocent of hands and the clean of heart, who has not received his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor.

He will receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God, his Savior.

This is the generation that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord who is strong and powerful; the Lord powerful in battle.

Lift up your gates, you princes, and be lifted up, eternal gates. And the King of Glory shall enter.

Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of virtue. He himself is the King of Glory.

 

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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