“The In-Temple-ment of the Lord” a.k.a. “The Feast of the Presentation”

This post follows importantly upon my previous one about beholding, embracing, and becoming. The fruit of repentance and death to self is the new life of theophany. God exorcises and “in-temples” us. We die and rise with Him, in Him, and He in us.

I have blogged previously on the “in-temple-ment” of the Lord. The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple is another opportunity to “be attentive” to the manner in which God saves us and the shape/content of this salvation in everyday life to the glory of God.

Let me add a little more to what I have already shared in this regard. Hopefully, I am not needlessly re-plowing the same row. I think not, for indeed, we are apt to forget and in so doing lose touch with the fact that today is always the day of our salvation, to paraphrase St. Paul.

There are many ways in which God seeks, in the Gospel accounts, to make His point regarding His desire to dwell in the midst of His people and in-dwell them.

  • The Annunciation in which we see, in the Theotokos, the icon of Israel and the Church.
  • The Nativity of Christ Jesus in which He dwells in the midst of His creation.
  • The Presentation (Entry) of the Lord in the Temple according to the Law of Moses.
  • The lingering of the boy Jesus in the Temple conversing with the elders as “the Father’s business.”
  • The events of the Theophany and first words and works of ministry in which He reveals to all humanity that He seeks, by way of their repentance, to dwell not simply among them but within them.
  • All of the sayings of Jesus in which He speaks, in various ways, about the impending “indwelling” of His disciples by the Holy Spirit.
  • The various ways in which Jesus enters Jerusalem and the temple throughout the Gospel accounts. Paramount being the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday.
  • His miracles of exorcism in which He casts out the demons who have illegitimately taken up residence in people – the cleansing of the temple for His entry.
  • The imagery of the wedding and the coming of the groom who will be united with His bride.
  • The dual saying, “I am the light of the world” and “You are the light of the world.”
  • I am sure you can add your own examples to this list…

This theme has, of course, its beginnings in the Old Testament. Here are a couple of examples: from today’s lectionary. Once again, you can, I am sure, add examples that are more profoundly appropriate. But these are from today’s lections:

Ezekiel 43.1-5
[1] Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east.
[2] And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the east; and the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with his glory.
[3] And the vision I saw was like the vision which I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and like the vision which I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face.
[4] As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east,
[5] the Spirit lifted me up, and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple.

Psalms 24
[1] The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein;
[2] for he has founded it upon the seas,
and established it upon the rivers.
[3] Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
[4] He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false,
and does not swear deceitfully.
[5] He will receive blessing from the LORD,
and vindication from the God of his salvation.
[6] Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
[7] Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
[8] Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in battle!
[9] Lift up your heads, O gates!
and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
[10] Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
he is the King of glory!

Here are several reflections on this wonderful theme from the writings of the saints:

From a sermon by Saint Sophronius (560-638):

In honour of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour 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.

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 splendour, 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 splendour.

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 honour. Source

From a hymn by Saint Ephrem of Syria (306 – 373):

Praise to you, Son of the Most High, who has put on our body.

Into the holy temple Simeon carried the Christ-child and sang a lullaby to him:
“You have come, Compassionate One,
Having pity on my old age, making my bones enter
Sheol in peace. By you I will be raised
Out of the grave into paradise.”

Anna embraced the child, she placed her mouth
upon his lips, and then the Spirit rested
upon her lips, like Isaiah
whose mouth was silent until a coal drew near
to his lips and opened his mouth.
Anna was aglow with the spirit of his mouth.
she sang him a lullaby:
“Royal Son,
Despised son, being silent, you hear;
Hidden, you see; concealed, you know;
God-man, glory to your name.”

Even the barren heard and came running with their provisions.
The Magi are coming with their treasures.
The barren are coming with their provisions.
Provisions and treasures were heaped up suddenly among the poor.

The barren woman Elizabeth cried out as she was accustomed,
“Who has granted to me, blessed woman,
to see your Babe by whom heaven and earth are filled?”
Blessed is your fruit
that brought forth the cluster on a barren vine.”

Praise to you, Son of the Most Hight, who has put on our body. Source

Finally, Saint Guerric of Igny (1070-1157):

Today as we bear in our hands lighted candles, how can we not fail to remember that venerable old man Simeon who on this day held the child Jesus in his arms – the Word who was latent in a body, as light is latent in a wax candle – and declared him to be ‘the light to enlighten the nations’? Indeed, Simeon was himself a bright and shining lamp bearing witness to the Light. Under the guidance of the Spirit which filled him, he came into the temple precisely in order that, ‘receiving your loving kindness, O God, in the midst of your temple’, he might proclaim Jesus to be that loving kindness and the light of your people.

Behold then, the candle alight in Simeon’s hands. You must light your own candles by enkindling them at his, those lamps which the Lord commanded you to bear in your hands. So come to him and be enlightened that you do not so much bear lamps as become them, shining within yourselves and radiating light to your neighbours. May there be a lamp in your heart, in your hand and in your mouth: let the lamp in your heart shine for yourself, the lamp in your hand and mouth shine for your neighbours. The lamp in your heart is a reverence for God inspired by faith; the lamp in your hand is the example of a good life; and the lamp in your mouth are the words of consolation you speak.

We have to shine not only before others by our good works and by what we say, but also before the angels in our prayer, and before God by the intentions of our hearts. In the presence of the angels our lamps will shine with unsullied reverence when we sing the psalms attentively in their sight or pray fervently; before God our lamp is single-minded resolve to please him alone to whom we have entrusted ourselves.

My friends, in order to light all these lamps for yourselves, I beg you to approach the source of light and become enlightened – I mean Jesus himself who shines in Simeon’s hands to enlighten your faith, who shines on your works, who inspires your speech, who makes your prayer fervent and purifies the intentions of your heart. Then, when the lamp of this mortal life is extinguished, there will appear for you who had so many lamps shining within you the light of unquenchable life, and it will shine for you at the evening of your life like the brightness of the noonday sun. Though you may think your light is quenched in death, you will rise like the daystar and your darkness be made bright as noon. As Scripture says, ‘No longer will you need the light of sun to shine upon you by day, or the light of the moon by night; but the Lord will be an everlasting light for you.’ For the light of the new Jerusalem is the Lamb. To him be glory and praise forever! (Celebrating the Seasons, by Robert Atwell. I highly recommend the purchase of your own copy of this volume. It will be a life-long blessing.)

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