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Candlemas and The Presentation

The celebration of the Incarnation continues until today in many Christian traditions, because on this day we remember Mary and Joseph's Presentation of their child in the temple. This feast day is the continuation of our "reflection on the Great Mystery of God in Christ as an infant," as Malcolm Guite says. (listen to his sonnet for Candlemas at this link.)

This feast is also known as Candlemas because it is a custom to "light a central candle and bring it to the altar to represent the Christ-light, and also on the occasion of this feast to bless all the 'lights' or candles in the church, praying that all who saw that outward and visible light would remember also and be blessed by the inner light of Christ 'who lightens everyone who comes into the world.'"

In her book Allegories of Heaven, Dinah Roe Kendall illustrates many of the stories of the New Testament and accompanies them with text from Eugene Peterson's The Message translation of scripture. Here is her interpretation of the Presentation in which you will see the elders Simeon and Anna reacting to their discovery of the Christ Child "for whom all were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem." And below is the story as told in The Message .

You might ponder who you might have been in that scene if you'd been in the temple that day? What would your first thoughts be? If your life would have been changed and how? and also, how do you feel about the modern interpretation of the scene?

Luke 2:25-38

The Message

25-32 In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:

God, you can now release your servant;    release me in peace as you promised.With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation;    it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,    and of glory for your people Israel.

33-35 Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother,

This child marks both the failure and    the recovery of many in Israel,A figure misunderstood and contradicted—    the pain of a sword-thrust through you—But the rejection will force honesty,    as God reveals who they really are.

36-38 Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.


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