The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord– 2 February 2021
Lectionary Readings: Mal 3:1-4; Ps 24:7, 8, 9, 10 (10b); Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40
Theme: “Then Simeon said to his mother Mary”
The Feast of the Presentation takes place on the 2nd of February, exactly 40 days after the Western Church celebrates the Nativity. An unintended bonus of this, for Christians in northern countries, is that the sun is noticeably higher in the sky and we know we are halfway to spring. Mary and Joseph brought their little son to the Temple on this day because that was what was stipulated for a woman who has given birth to a son (Lev 12:1-4). In the Temple, they are encountered by Simeon and Anna who are not in the Temple because they are obligated to be there. Anna wants to be there, so much so that “she never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.” (v. 37) Simeon, to whom it has been revealed that he will see the Messiah in his lifetime, has been “guided by the Spirit.” (v. 27) Simeon is described as “righteous and devout” (v.25); Anna is a prophet, “comparable to women prophets in Judaism, such as Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah.” (Levine, 103) Anna reacts to the presence of Jesus as we would expect a prophet to do: “She began to praise God and speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (v. 38)
Simeon is allowed to take the baby Jesus in his arms. He thanks the LORD for this and blesses Mary and Joseph. What he says and does next has been paraphrased as follows by Frederick Buechner:
“Then something about the mother stopped him, and his expression changed. What he saw in her face was a long way off, but it was there so plainly he couldn’t pretend. ‘A sword will pierce through your soul,’ he said. He would rather have bitten off his tongue than said it, but in that holy place, he felt he had no choice. Then he handed her back the baby and departed in something less than the perfect peace he’d dreamed of all the long years of his waiting.” (Buechner, 176)
In paraphrasing the first of Mary’s Seven Sorrows as he does, Buechner reminds us that it is required of one human being to say words to another that are hard to say and still harder to hear. Why did Simeon speak those words? Think of it. This was the happiest day of his life, so much so that he was content for death to come. Why spoil the occasion by talking about suffering that was years away? According to Buechner, he “felt he had no choice” because Mary and he were “in that holy place.” God’s house is not a place for lies. Another possibility, deserving of consideration, is that he respected Mary so much that he knew he should not keep the truth from her.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) If you were Simeon, what would you have done? Think the times you may have concealed the truth out of kindness. Looking back, would you do so now? 2) Think about the times truth has been kept from you, by family, friends, or authority figures. How did that make you feel?
Bibliography: Buechner, Frederick. Peculiar Treasures: A Biblical Who’s Who (New York: 1979); Levine, Amy-Jill & Brettler, Marc Zvi, ed., The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York: 2011).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2010