Presenting the Lord: Christ in search of His people
Each February 2, forty days after the celebration of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas. On this occasion, the Church blesses the candles to be used in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, as well as those candles used by the lay faithful in their homes for private devotion.
The story we remember on this feast is the first public act of our Savior after His Nativity — His entrance into the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. In the first form of the “Blessing of Candles and the Procession,” the priest mentions the dual character of the feast.
Outwardly, Jesus was being presented by His Blessed Mother, Mary, and St. Joseph in the Temple to fulfill the Law of Moses found in Leviticus. On the other hand, Our Lord is running toward His people to meet them. At the Temple he meets the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna.
The personal stories of Simeon and Anna are beautiful and, like so many stories found in St. Luke’s Gospel, people who might appear marginal or seem on the fringes of their environment are brought into the light by their encounter with Jesus.
In reading the text of the Gospel for today’s feast, details of Simeon’s and Anna’s life are rather scant. We really know nothing of Simeon except that he was a very old man, and when Anna appears to speak words of prophecy over the infant Christ, we know very little about her except that she was an old woman and a widow. Yet, whatever the unknown details of their lives might be, Simeon’s words when he holds the Christ child in his arms are powerful. On the one hand, they express the fulfillment of the “hope of all nations.” And, on the other, his words express a moment when people who might appear marginal or on the fringes are brought into the warmth and radiance of Our Lord.
Jesus is the sign and the promise for those who are Gentiles, those who feel they are on the outside, that He is there and will be there for those who think or feel they do not belong. They think or feel this way for a variety of different reasons: social, economic, or, simply, they believe, (albeit falsely), that they are too broken even for Jesus. In whatever circumstance, Christ is the one who brings them into His light.
If anyone reading this article is wondering or thinking, “What does this have to do with priesthood and encouraging young men to prayerfully consider their vocation?” I would simply suggest you listen to or read the prayers of the feast and read the Gospel, focusing on what Our Lord is doing.
Christ, even as an infant, goes in search of His people. He goes in search of those people who might be or are on the margins or fringes of their environment due to the numerous circumstances that would lead them to be underappreciated, undervalued, or unwelcomed, and in each circumstance Our Lord brings them to Himself.
The priest, who acts in the person and name of Jesus, must daily resolve himself to go in search of those who would be considered and deemed marginal. Be that a person who has been treated unjustly, a person whose inherent dignity has been harmed, or even a person who believes they are too far beyond the reach of Christ. Priests are called to bring Our Lord and His light.
The young man who is praying and thinking about following Jesus in this way, as His priest, must have this same resolve like our Lord to go in search of His people — for our Lord, “who is the light of all nations” has come that all “might have life and have it more abundantly.”