My Favorite Neglected Feast
Today is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox calendar, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple; therefore I think it excusable if I postpone tackling many pressing mundane tasks and meditate a little longer on one of my favorite celebrations.
As long as I can remember, the story of Christ being presented in the temple as an infant has brought tears to my eyes, because of the constancy and joy of Simeon, a “just and devout man” who had throughout a long life been waiting and praying for the Messiah. His words express a single-minded heart — his purpose in faithfully waiting had been fulfilled. What a sweet reward, to be the one to receive and hold the Christ!
When Jesus was brought to the temple at 40 days old, according to the law, Simeon (Luke Chapter 2) “… took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.’ ”
Thanks to Deb, I found this series of very informative postings that Matt wrote, linking all the events of this day through history, including Groundhog Day, which I will now always remember, in the background. (I did love that movie, whose lesson of humility is applicable throughout the secular or church year.) It is a neglected feast, our priest noted this morning, though our numbers weren’t too small this morning for Divine Liturgy.
The festivities spill over to February 3rd when we give a whole day to commemorating Simeon and the Prophetess Anna. It’s been a happy thing to find that Orthodoxy takes plenty of time for rejoicing in an event that has long been a resting place to me along the path that we call our salvation history.
Candlemas is another name for the holy day, and the church East and West has traditionally blessed candles on this day. I love candles as much as anyone, and I left the church with a handful to burn at home and in that way to stretch out the joy for a good while, brightening and lightening up these winter days.