The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus
Earlier this week, this special Feast Day took place, probably unnoticed by most of us. It’s sad to me because the day speaks to us of a most significant event in our story. I am sure you have heard these words, “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.” (Luke 2:29-32, RSV)
This Canticle is known as the Nunc dimittis. From the Gospel of Luke, it is used in The Book of Common Prayer (pp.51 & 120). It draws on the words of Simeon, who recognized the infant Jesus to be the Messiah when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the temple, 40 days after His birth. It was a service of the Rite of Purification for the mother (who was now ritually clean) and the presenting of their first born son to the Lord.
Seeing this child, Simeon was now at peace and ready to face death because, after years of waiting, he had seen the long-expected Messiah. The translation of the passage would be something like “now you are dismissed” or “now you may go.”
In similar fashion, Anna, as well, had lived a full life. She spent her days in the confines of the temple. She was waiting for the consolation of Israel, the coming of the long expected Messiah. This particular child gave them both hope and filled them with joy. Their long-held dreams were finally being fulfilled.
When the infant Jesus was presented, it all came together. They took one look at the child and the sight filled their life with meaning. I pray, as you encounter the Christ and His presence, like Simeon and Anna, your life will be filled with meaning, hope and purpose. From the collect for the Presentation of Christ in the Temple:
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 239)