Today we celebrate one of the twelve great feasts in the life of the Church. The Feast Of Meeting, also known as the presentation of the Lord in the temple. This took place 40 days after the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, aka Christmas. It was a time for the mother to bring a sacrifice to the temple and to ask the priest to pray for her purification as seen in the book of Leviticus 12. Our own practice mirrors this ancient practice of the Jews. We church the child and the mother around the 40 day mark and through the churching we pray for the mother’s purification and ask for her to be accepted back into communion with the Holy Church. That day, she receives the Eucharist for the first time since giving birth.
In some places this feast is also called Candlemas. We know that by the 7thcentury there was a custom that involved candles and processions. We know this because St. Sophronius of Jerusalem mentions it clearly in one of his sermons. This procession with candles is a symbol of what the Elder Simeon did that day in the temple when he took the young Christ into his arms and said “Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Thy people Israel.”
He carried the light of the world in his arms! Can we imagine such a joy and such a blessing? We are overjoyed when we carry a newborn child for the first time. Yet, here he was carrying the child that he had literally been waiting a lifetime in order to finally see. We can only begin to imagine his exuberance and overwhelming joy.
In his sermon on the Feast of The Presentation, St. Sophronius of Jerusalem said the following,
“Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ. The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.
The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God. The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining, as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal.
Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor. Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.”
We fall into sins. We fight about many things. We struggle with one another. We argue over politics, we argue over sports, we argue over chores and housework, we argue about trivial matters in our homes and even in the church, or we argue about weightier matters like respect and justice. Yet we can also learn from the words of the Righteous Simeon that we can be, and should be, at peace. Why? Because we have seen and known the salvation that is now present through the coming of Jesus Christ into the world and into our lives.
We should stop being petty and earthly. We can cease our sinful habits and ways of thinking and take the opportunity to look up to the heavens and thank God for His love and mercy. Where would we be without such mercy and love? Where would we be without His salvation? Where would we be if He had not forgiven our sins?
But all of this is now open to us, heaven itself is opened to us, because of Our Lord Jesus Christ and we are forever thankful for such a precious gift. As St. Sophronius mentioned, we should work to make our souls glow with His radiance. We should shine with our love for God and one another. Nothing more and nothing less is needed. May we enter into this feast with joy and may the Lord make radiant lights who reflect His precious and life giving light. AMEN.