Tag Archives: Meeting of the Lord

They become resplendent.

At the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, we bless candles in church. I liked this letter from Abbot Tryphon in which he reminds us that the Light of Christ is what our lamps and candles represent, and what makes the saints shine:

“Vigil lights are placed before the icons of the saints, according to Saint Symeon the New Theologian, as a way of showing that without the Light, Who is Christ, the saints are nothing. It is only as the light of Christ shines on them that they become alive and resplendent.

St. Symeon the New Theologian

“The saints show us what a glorious destiny we have in God, and through the example of their lives, point the way to our becoming ‘partakers of divine nature.’ The saints, as the cloud of witnesses in heaven, are present in the divine services, worshiping the Holy Trinity with us. They, as our friends, intercede before the Throne of God on our behalf, having won the good fight, and we are encouraged by the memory and example of their lives, as we struggle on our own path to God.

“It has been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: sinners who think they are saints, and saints who know they are sinners. A saint is a Christian who lets God’s light shine through, and whose life has been transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“We venerate the saints as we seek their intercession with God, but we adore and worship only God in Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We venerate the images (icons) as well as the relics of the saints and martyrs. Yet according to the decisions and Canons of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, this veneration relates not to the icons as such, but to their prototypes, or to the persons whom they represent.

“The interior walls of our temples are adorned with the icons and frescoes of the saints as a reminder that we are surrounded by the cloud of witnesses, the saints, and that the Church Militant (here on earth) is not separated from the Church Triumphant (in heaven). In Christ, death does not divide us, for the saints are not dead, but alive in Christ Jesus.

“Glory to Jesus Christ, Who is glorified in His saints.

“With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon”

So we too were at once freed.

“Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ. The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him. The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

“The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.

“Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

“By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.”

St Sophronius of Jerusalem, c. 560 – 638

Simeon knew.

Lighting candles before Vigil this evening, for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. This commemoration marks the end of the Christmas season, when 40 days after birth Jesus was presented in the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the law of Moses. The Prophet Simeon knew by the Spirit that the child was the Christ, the Messiah, and he took him in his arms and said,

“Lord, now let 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 people: a Light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

Then he took him up in his arms…

P1120397 altar w beamsLight, joy, glory… If you don’t know the story of what happened when Jesus was presented in the temple at 40 days old, skip to the bottom of this post and read the account from Luke before going on.

It’s been a few days now since we celebrated the feast of The Meeting of the Lord. It’s interesting that the Orthodox usually know it from the perspective of Simeon and Anna, but it is also called The Presentation of Christ, from the point of view of Jesus’s parents.

As I’ve mentioned more than once, it is one of my favorite feasts (I’ve written about it before), so I was expectant and so glad that I was able to be at Divine Liturgy on what can be an inconvenient day — this year February 2nd was a Monday. But I had missed church the day before and was feeling very needy.meeting-Lord-temple0001 oca

We began with Matins, and every element of the service beginning with the refrain, “Let every breath praise the Lord!” seemed to be calculated to straighten up my bent soul. By means of the most aromatic incense, the chandeliers swinging, the Six Psalms, and many more gifts known and unknown, many kinks in the conduit were at least temporarily untwisted so I could receive the light and the joy.

I got the usual goosebumps when the gospel for this feast was read. Oh, dear Simeon! What must it have been like for you to hold The Christ in your old arms?… knowing not just as information but in your very heart and flesh that this infant was your own God and Redeemer? To help us meditate on this, the words of a hymn ascribe to Christ the words, “I am not held by the Elder; it is I Who hold him, for he asks Me for forgiveness.”

simeon-god-receiverThat hymn was part of yesterday’s remembrance of Saint Simeon the God-Receiver and also St. Anna the Prophetess. We remember them especially the day following the event in which they figured. But it’s still not time to leave the nourishment of this feast behind: The Leavetaking of The Meeting of Our Lord is not until next Monday, and by then we won’t be too sad to say good-bye because we will be well into the pre-Lent period, the Sunday of the Prodigal Son being the day before.

In the Church calendar we have these layers of history and sacrament and celebration constantly orienting us to the deepest realities of life. The light and truth that we draw from the lives of the saints and from the events of our salvation history are not random ideas in our individual heads, but are shared experience with the whole Church family as we worship together by means of all the graces and sacraments pertaining to each season.

St. Nikolai on this day encourages us to contemplate joy, and his homily elaborates: “Just as the bleak forest clothes itself in greenery and flowers through the breath of spring, so every man – regardless of how arid and darkened he is by sin – becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is like the closeness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam that restores health, increases life, and gives fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man.”

I came home from church with a candle from among the stack that had been blessed, as this feast is also Candlemas. Candlelight is reminding me to hold on to the joy that has been given to me, and to be renewed in it every morning. Let every breath praise the Lord!

P1120401crp dome w beams

21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23 (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.