By the time February comes we are already feeling that winter is too long even if we have been spared cold days and numerous snow events. Groundhog Day offers a bit of a distraction as we put our bets on Punxsutawney Phil and a shadow. But in the Church year, February 2 is always a feast of light.
In many ways the feast of the Presentation is like a little jewel. The events of Advent-Christmas-Epiphany linger and fade gradually and help us to savor the beauty of this special time in the Church year. The feast celebrates the day, forty days after Christ’s birth, when Jesus was presented in the Temple by thankful parents eager to fulfill the Jewish Law.
The feast dates back to the earliest days of the Church, and it marks the official close of the Christmas celebrations. From the eleventh century onward, candles to be used for worship have been blessed on this day. In more recent times, the feast has been the yearly celebration of Consecrated Life. This year the feast marks the conclusion of the Year of Consecrated Life declared by Pope Francis which we have been celebrating since November 30, 2014.
This multi-layered feast has echoes of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. And there are echoes of Good Friday. There are references to expectation and wisdom. The three main persons in the Christmas story —Jesus, Mary and Joseph— return but this time enter the Temple rather than a stable. They are greeted by two elders —Anna, a prophetess, and the righteous and devout Simeon. After years of waiting they meet Jesus —“the face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy” (from the Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee of Mercy).
The feast celebrates Mary who is a vital part of the event especially because her coming to the Temple involved her fulfillment of the Jewish Law as well. Her faithfulness in accepting God’s invitation to become the mother of the Savior, now puts her in a place where she encounters the faithfulness of Anna and Simeon who have prepared to know the time of their visitation.
It is fairly easy to put ourselves in the Temple that day and watch the meeting that transpires. What moves my heart? The layers of the feast offer some possibilities:
we celebrate Jesus and Mary—faithfulness and wisdom;
we celebrate the encounter of a young family with wise elders;
we sense joy and foreboding—light and glory;
we conclude the celebration of Christmas and hear words pointing to Easter;
we are told of the activity of the Holy Spirit—so strains of Pentecost.
You can add your own musings about this event. And remember to light a candle.
–Sister Dominica Rocchio, SC
Sr. Dominica, most recently a member of the Congregation’s leadership team, has ministered in education as a teacher, principal, and in administrative positions in the archdioceses of New York and Newark, NJ. In Newark, she served as Superintendent of Schools and Secretary for Education.