ceremony in the Latino community offers families the opportunity to present their infant or 3 year old to God in the presence of the liturgical community; it is an occasion for giving thanks for the new life and for a safe delivery. Typically, the priest will hold the child up for all the community to see, and then offer a special blessing to the child, and his or her parents and godparents. This practice, however, is not limited to the Hispanic community but takes place in a variety of cultures and faith traditions. The common characteristics include the lifting up of the child, sometimes towards the altar and sometimes towards the assembly; the pronouncement of blessing; and the reminder to parents and godparents of their responsibilities.
As we celebrate the
Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple,
we remember how Joseph and Mary fulfilled the ancient practice of dedicating the first born son to God. In many cultures today it is
children who are presented not just first born sons; the ritual reminds us of the sacredness of life and that, ultimately, all of us belong to God. As we listen to the proclamation of the Gospel, we will hear how the Holy Child will be a Light for the nations, a manifestation of God's glory. Can we, like Simeon and Anna, see beyond the form of a child to God's wondrous presence in our mist? Can we rejoice with them in the knowledge that God's Will will be accomplished in God's Time, and in God's own way, not ours? And do we dare dedicate ourselves to live in such a way that God's Will can we done in us and through us, for the sake of humanity?
PS I'm still trying to catch up from travels and trauma. Hope to be back on track soon! Thanks for understanding!
“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.”
Both Simeon and Anna led consecrated lives; that is, they were completely dedicated to the sacred and to the pursuit of holiness. Simeon was "righteous and devout" and awaited "the consolation of Israel," that is, the restoration of God's rule. Luke tells us that Anna "never left the temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." Because of their complete commitment to God, both Simeon and Anna were seers or prophets; they could see beyond the surface, finding divinity in the Infant while foreseeing his significance in salvation history. Consecrated life meant that they lived under the power of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit spoke through them to the young couple who came to consecrate their child to God....
When we think of "consecrated life," we tend to think of ordained ministers or of the members of religious communities who have taken solemn vows. This, of course, is the more usual understanding of the word, but in biblical times, it had broader applications. Before entering the Promised Land, for example, the Israelites had to sanctify themselves, that is, make themselves holy (Josh 3:5) in preparation for the wonders God would perform on their behalf. Having wandered in the desert for 40 years, they needed to cleanse themselves not only of physical filth but also of their doubts, their lack of gratitude, their complaining and even their moments of worshiping false idols. Only then would they be ready to cross the River Jordan. In other words, the entire "nation" had to undergo purification. Returning to today's readings, we find this theme of sanctification in Malachi 3:1-4 which describes how God's messenger will refine and purify the priestly people "like gold or like silver" so that their sacrifices will be pleasing to God.
Consecration is an intentional act. It can be private or public but it always involves a conscious decision to align oneself with all that is holy rather than to accept a life of ethical compromise, self-serving aspirations and limiting allegiances. For many of us, the decision to reject "Satan and all his works" was made on our behalf at Baptism by our parents and godparents; we then had the opportunity to make this commitment ourselves when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation. For those who prepare for the sacraments of initiation as adults, there is the opportunity to leave behind the "old self" (Eph 4:22; Rom 6:6) so that a new self may emerge --a new creation, as it were, free from vices and corruption of all kinds! If we happen to "backslide," there is always the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us re-focus, re-center, and re-commit, and the Eucharist to sustain us. Then, of course, there are sacramental opportunities to choose a way of life that is sanctified (Holy Orders, Marriage) and to prepare for our transition to restored health or to eternity (Anointing of the Sick).
But even beyond this sacramental framework, each of us can consecrate our lives to God at any point. This involves the decision to surrender completely to God's Love, to leave behind any attitudes and behaviors that separate us from this Love and to live in a way that is completely aligned with God's Heart-- to the best of our abilities, of course. Like Simeon and Anna, we can decide to dwell in "God's House" while living in this world. Whether we ritualize this in the company of others or whether we do so privately, this is an act of great spiritual consequence -- one that we undertake not to be "perfect" but to delight the Holy One. Only this way can we become "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. God's own people"(1 Peter 2:9).