Thursday, 20 May 2010

The Presentation in the Temple

Mary and Joseph, as obedient Jews, went to the Temple to give thanks for her 'first-born male child' - Jesus. Being poor, they brought the offering as the Law required of them 'a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons' - they can be seen in the basket by Mary's knees. Simeon and Anna, both wonderful examples of people of faith witnessed this event: Anna, the old prophetess and widow spent all her time now - St Luke tells us - 'serving God night and day with fasting and prayer.' Simeon, the holy man, says 'Now, Master, You can let Your servant go in peace' because for Simeon this moment was a moment of light. The Ark of the Covenant had been kept safe in the Temple in Jerusalem and was there until the Temple was ransacked by the Babylonians in 586BC. The Ark represeneted God dwelling among His people. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant; she fulfils all that the Ark was; for just as the Ark of the Covenant was overshadddowed by God prescence and power, so Mary was overshaddowed by the same living presence which she carried in her womb from the Annunciation, and gave birth to nine months later - Jesus Christ. For Simeon the light was put out in the Temple when the Ark was no longer found there, but now on this day, the Light, Jesus Christ, has come back into the Temple, and hope is here for all people. He is feeast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas (2nd February) Simeons hymn, the Nunc Dimitis, is said every night as part of the Office of Compline.

At last, all-powerful Master,
You give leave to Your servant
to go in peace, according to Your promise.
For my eyes have seen Your salvation
which You have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles
and give glory to Israel, Your people.