Contemplating the Gospel: the Encounter in the Temple

 Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-40

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:”Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribeof Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. 

Scriptural reflection:

 The final feast in the Christmas cycle brings us back to the days after the Nativity of Christ, when Jesus was 40 days old. This feast, the Meeting of Our Lord, is celebrated 40 days after the feast of the Nativity. According to the Byzantine Liturgical cycle, this holy day represents a transitional feast whereby the two great festive moods of Christmas and Easter are symbolically united.

 After the birth of Jesus, the Most Pure Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph had to present the Christ Child in the temple at Jerusalem and consecrate Him to the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law: “Every male child that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Lk 2:33).
 
There was at Jerusalem at that time a righteous and devout man named Simeon, to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen Christ, the promised Savior. A certain prophetess named Anna, who never left the temple but continually fasted and prayed, also awaited the coming of the Messiah.
When the Holy Family arrived at the Temple, they were going to offer up in sacrifice the oblation of the poor, which consisted of a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons, as was prescribed by the Law of Moses.
 
Holy Simeon who was inspired by the Holy Spirit to come to the temple, took the Child Jesus into his hands and blessed God for permitting him to live to that moment to see the Savior. Anna also came and praised the Lord and began to prophesy about the Child. With this feast the Church closed all connections with the childhood of Christ during which commemorations were made of His nativity, the coming of the Magi and His circumcision. When Simeon confessed the Lord and delivered the inspired message to Mary, he foretold: “Behold this child is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35).
 
Both Simeon and Anna in prophesying of what would happen to the Child Jesus in the future already directs attention to the sufferings and passion of Christ and His culminating Death and Resurrection. This is commemorated in the feast of feasts — Easter — signifying our redemption from sin. Thus, it is readily seen how this feast connects the concluding elements of our Lord’s nativity with the future incidents of His life.
 
It was on this occasion of Jesus’ consecration to the Father in the temple that the Most Holy Mother of God rejoiced at the wonderful things Encounter of our Lord in the Temple - February 2nd spoken by Simeon and Anna concerning the Child. However, she was aware of the grief and hardships that were destined to befall Jesus as He fulfilled the mission for which He was born.
 
From the beginnings of this feast, we see that our Lord came as a son to His own people. Therefore, He respected the religious traditions of the times, fulfilling the requirements of the Law. We, too, continue this practice when we bring our newborn child to the church for the rite of “Churching”, or Baptism as we call it.
 
Why do you have your child baptized? Is it not because you want him/her to share the new life of Christ and the new life of the Christian community? The Christian community is more than just an organization. Saint Paul teaches us that the Church is the body of Christ. So when we become a member of the church we become a member and part of the Body of Christ.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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