My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. Such spiritual feasts as this are invitations to us to procure salvation for our souls. These spiritual feasts are so much greater than all worldly holidays, all worldly celebrations; greater than all the business of earthly life. For as the soul is greater than the body, and as heaven is greater than earth, so the future everlasting life of the eternal Kingdom is greater than this present transitory life.
Every feast of the Lord that we celebrate during the year is a cultivation of spiritual joy. It is an invitation to pass from the lowly and the everyday to the sublime and divine, a lifting-up of our hearts and minds from the worldly to the other-worldly.
Therefore this day let us indeed turn our hearts and our minds to God, let us all the more determine to please God with holiness, peace, and unity. Let us spend our time in genuine prayer, giving voice to the liturgical hymns and supplications. Let us bring forth fruits of repentance in acts of justice and almsgiving. Let us seek a greater illumination on this feast, and a greater correspondence with every grace, so that in His love towards mankind our Lord might give us entry into His heavenly kingdom, where the festival is kept without ceasing.
We hear in today’s Gospel as it relates concerning the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that entering the temple today, they encountered Saints Simeon and Anna. Saint Simeon was then an old man, a God-loving man, as the Gospel tells us, just and devout, who was waiting for the Christ, Who would come and give comfort to the people of Israel, and Who would free them from their sin. By the revelation of the Holy Spirit, Simeon had been given the knowledge that he would not die until he had seen the Christ with his own eyes.
And on this day, then, moved by the Holy Spirit, Simeon came to the Temple. When the Mother of God and Saint Joseph brought our Lord Jesus Christ to the Temple to do for Him after the custom of the Law, Saint Simeon went up to them, He took the Lord up in his arms, and blessed God, and with gladness and joy he uttered what would come to be called the “Canticle of Simeon.” We pray this to this very day at Vespers every day. He said:
Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace;
Because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples:
A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
Then the Gospel tells us that the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph marvelled at those things which were spoken of our Lord. And Saint Simeon blessed them, and said unto the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”
The Lord is set for the fall and the resurrection of many in Israel. The Lord is set for the fall of unbelievers and the resurrection and conﬁrmation of believers. The Lord came for the downfall of our sins and the rise of our righteousness; by His power vice falls and virtue rises. And with Christ’s fall to death we arise and by His Resurrection disbelief falls away.
The sign of contradiction is the Cross, which unbelievers reject and speak against down to the present day. This sign which is spoken against – contradicted – also refers to the Incarnation of the Lord. Fore herein is a sign strange, in truth, and most glorious: God became man, and a virgin became a mother, while remaining a virgin even after giving birth. This sign is spoken against by heretics and unbelievers, but by the faithful it is truly believed, venerated, magnified and proclaimed.
“And thine own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” A sword, says Simeon, referring to the sorrows which the Mother of God would experience through her life, most especially at the Passion of Christ.
But that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed a sword shall pierce her very soul. The thoughts of many who doubt are made manifest, revealed and exposed, and they find swift healing and health if, in imitation of the example of the Blessed Virgin, for the sake of divine love they do not flee from trial or sorrow, but rather accept it and allow that their own hearts to be opened – even if by the sword of sorrow – before the Lord.
Also there in the Temple was the Prophetess Anna, and aged widow, who with fasting and prayer besought the Lord day and night at the Temple. Anna gives testimony, as the Gospel tells us: “Coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
After this testimony, the Gospel quickly concludes the narration, saying: “…after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.”
After fulfilling all things laid down by the Law of Moses, they returned to their own city Nazareth. It was written in the Law, Every first-born that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord; therefore, Christ also comes to the Temple to fulfill the Law in Himself, for the law is fulfilled in Christ Himself, Who is the Author of the Law.
And the Gospel concludes: “And the Child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in Him.”
Though the Lord could have been made flesh and come forth from the very womb in full adulthood, He rather willed to grow in stature little by little, for His Incarnation as true man was no mere appearance, no mere phantom. As all humanity save our first parents, He grew; and as He grew, he became strong, and the wisdom of the Word of God was revealed concerning Him, and He would, in His human intellect ever be full of wisdom, and the grace of God was in Him – within His very being, and all that He would say, all that He would do was within the grace of God.
And so, my friends: Today is an invitation. We are invited by Saints Simeon and Anna to look upon the Lord, our Salvation. We are invited with the Blessed Virgin to open our own hearts before the Lord, even with the passage of the sword of sorrow, that our thoughts might be revealed.
We are invited to worship and glorify Christ our God, Who became an Infant for our sakes. Together with Saint Simeon let us spiritually receive in our arms Him Who stretched out His arms on the Cross to receive us.
Together with the Prophetess Anna let us give testimony concerning our God; let us bless Him, thank Him and magnify His mercy towards us.
Let us give thanks to Christ, Who took our inﬁrmities, and Who delivered us from the bitter torments of the devil. Let us give thanks to the Lord, Who provides for our life and our elevation, and Who ever seeks our salvation and reformation. He is the Liberator and Redeemer of our souls, Who gives us all things good and beneficial, that in the age to come we may also be granted entrance to the eternal kingdom.