2 February [Presentation]
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, [the parents of Jesus] brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
The Law is mentioned three times in this reading: everything is being done “according to the Law,” that is, the Law of Moses. Jesus appears as fully within the Law; everything is being done the right way; he is fully identified with the Jewish people, or as a commentator with a lot of hindsight put it, “completely immersed in humanity.” Very well, if there is to be hindsight, then let’s see this child as a grown man put to death in accordance with the same Law. But can you still see the eight-day-old baby once you have mentioned his death?
What else is mentioned three times in this reading? The Holy Spirit. But remember, this is the Old Testament Holy Spirit. It is not yet the divine Person of the Christian Trinity. It was the undifferentiated Spirit of God that hovered over the waters at the beginning of creation (Gen 1:2). The new Spirit would take people right out of the embrace of the Law.
Sometimes it can be a good thing to try and set aside some of our hindsight. When hindsight gets in before sight itself, it can blind rather than illuminate. We have to give Jesus time to grow up – not only in himself but in us.
It took an old man, Simeon, to discern the new thing that was happening. And the old woman, Anna, is also aware. They are wonderful examples of the clarity that can be found in old people. Every night of life the Church’s Night Prayer repeats Simeon’s canticle. “Now, O Lord, you can dismiss your servant in peace....” It is deeply meaningful. Every day is like a short lifetime, and nightfall reminds us of approaching death. The end is therefore not to be dreaded as something we have always excluded from our consciousness, but welcomed as a fulfilment – much as the body welcomes the prospect of rest and sleep.
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