A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 2:22-40
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted --and you yourself a sword will pierce-- so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Today's Gospel describes the Presentation of the Lord, which occurs forty days after the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph honor the tradition of bringing a first-born male child to Jerusalem to dedicate him to God. Jewish law also required for families to furnish two gifts: an unblemished year old lamb and a pair of pigeons or doves. Mary and Joseph brought a pigeon or dove as there was an exception for families that were poor.
The Catholic Church has given the Presentation of the Lord different names: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Candlemas. Growing up in Peru we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Candelaria or the feast of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. The Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria is celebrated in Spain (her first appearance was on the island of Tenerife), Las Americas and in the Philippines. During the celebration of this feast, back home in Lima, parishioners brought their baby Jesus nativity statues to be blessed (they were to be used the "following" Christmas season) as well as their candles. When you walked into church that weekend, you would see an altar full of the most beautiful and colorful baby Jesus and candles... lots of candles. My mom enjoyed going early to look at the display. If we were in Arequipa (South of the Capital and where my dad is from) it was a very loud and colorful celebration. People dancing on the streets, processions, food and music. It was, and still is, a mixture of Catholic tradition and local folklore. Going back to the Gospel, what an incredible scene must have been when Simeon immediately recognized Jesus: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel". And Anna, "Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem". No doubts, mistrust or hesitation. They saw what they sought for so long, the Savior of the world in that little poor child.
May we constantly seek your presence, Lord.
May we always recognize you with the help of the Holy Spirit.
May we be inspired by Simeon and Anna to hold fast to the promises of our Savior. Amen.