Feb. 2,1997 The Presentation of the Lord Lk 2,22-40
ONLY A FEW weeks ago, on the feast of the Holy Family, we heard this same Gospel proclaimed. But we meditate upon it again today to celebrate the new manifestation of Jesus as Messiah, as he is presented in the temple.
Simeon and Anna represent all of us who have been waiting and searching for the Lord in order to find in him the ultimate meaning of our life. They embody the theological virtue of hope, living in confidence with their souls fixed on the promises of God. What enables them to pick this child out of the crowd and acclaim him as the Anointed of the Lord? If we can answer that question then we, too, can share in the transforming graces offered in the mystery of the Presentation.
First of all, we are told that Simeon and Anna were waiting in the temple, which means they were waiting in holiness. So often, when our life lacks focus, purpose, direction or fulfillment we entertain the temptation to dissipation, worldliness, materialism, etc. God has his reasons for not divulging His answer to all our prayers as immediately as we might desire. For one thing, he aims to purify and strengthen our desires so as to conform them more perfectly to what God wants for us.
Simeon and Anna's prolonged period of sanctified waiting prepares them to partake with great joy in all the richness of the Presentation. Their God-centered patience refines their perseverance and perception so that they settle for nothing less than God in their lives. Holiness is their tutor. Simeon and Anna readily welcome God's Son in the temple because they have first nurtured godliness in their own lives.
But something else disposes them to see in the Christ child “a revealing light to the Gentiles.” Simeon and Anna's lives have both been formed by suffering. Simeon is presented to us with all the virtues of a monk. He has lived his life in complete self-donation to God, with unfailing dedication and utter detachment. His life remains focused on his death: the moment when God's anointed would be revealed to him. And this delights him and gives him great peace.
In the same way, Anna's life is marked by constant asceticism. She has lived perhaps 50 or 60 years alone as a widow, fasting, consumed by prayer. And because both of these holy ones value the redemptive power of sacrifice in their relationship with God, they are quick to receive the Holy One of God as he is consecrated in the temple with a sacrifice.
Finally, Simeon's esteem for Mary opens his eyes to the presence of Jesus. In fact, the Presentation is depicted as another version of the Visitation. The Mother of God who once bore Jesus in her womb to Elizabeth now carries her child into the temple where Simeon takes him in his arms. At the prospect of giving birth to her son, Mary sings her Magnificat in Elizabeth's house. Now at the fulfillment of God's Word in the “saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see” — the Incarnation — it is Simeon who sings his canticle in the temple. Anna joins in the glory and the joy by giving thanks to God and talking about the child to all. The Mother of God, who presents her Son to God and to us, also enables us to embrace the graces that continue to flow to us through the Presentation.
Father Cameron, a Register contributing editor, is a professor of homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N. Y.