Today we celebrate the traditional end of the Christmas season with this feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The current liturgical end of the Christmas season was back on January 10th, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. But the older tradition reflected what we have seen in the readings for the Sundays ever since, and that is remnants of the Epiphany, or manifestation of who Christ is in our world. On Epiphany, Jesus was manifested to the Magi as priest, prophet and king. On the Baptism of the Lord, Jesus was baptized as the eternal Son of the Father, with whom the Father was well-pleased. Today, Jesus is manifested as a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, as the king of glory.
Like Epiphany, this feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a feast of light. On Epiphany the world was illumined by a star that pointed to the true Light of the world. Today, a world grown dark is illumined by that true Light and the glory of God sheds light on the whole world: Gentiles and Israelites alike. So today, the Church has always blessed candles, which we did at the beginning of Mass today. The reason the Church lights candles is always to draw our attention to Christ our Light, in the midst of whatever darkness the world throws at us. This feast is a foreshadowing of the Easter Vigil, when the deacon proclaims in a darkened church, “Lumen Christi,” “The Light of Christ,” and the Church responds, “Deo Gratias,” “Thanks be to God.” Today is a foretaste of Easter, when the true Light of the World, Christ our Light, will definitively conquer every darkness.
In today’s Gospel reading, Simeon and Anna experienced the power of the Light of the World. They had been waiting and praying and fasting for the day of his appearance, and those prayers were answered. The Lord came suddenly to the temple, as Malachi prophesied, and they could now be at peace. But that appearance of the Lord requires a response: one doesn’t just experience the light and remain the same. Christ our light is that refiner’s fire that purifies the lives of his chosen ones so that they might go out and shed light on our dark world.
And I don’t mean for this to just be an academic or poetic discussion. The light of Christ is not a mere metaphor. Being the light for the world isn’t just a “yeah, maybe I should do that some day” kind of thing. Every baptized one, according to her or his station in life, is called to actively shed light on the world. So let’s take a few moments to pray with this.
- Call to mind a darkness that you have noticed, either in your life, in your community, or in the world: a darkness that affects you or those around you.
- Take a moment to talk with Jesus about that darkness and let him know your concern.
- Listen for Jesus as he acknowledges the darkness and accepts your concern.
- Ask him for the grace to shed some light, small or big, on that darkness. Listen for him to tell you what he wants you to do.