Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple




SUNDAY WAS THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD.  The East calls it The Meeting of the Lord. Mary and Joseph are dutiful in fulfilling the obligation of dedicating the first-born boy to God in the Jerusalem Temple. We might hold that thought for a moment. This was no easy trip - carrying a newborn along dangerous dirt roads by foot or by donkey if you had one. In our culture people complain about having to walk too far from the parking lot to the mall. But Mary and Joseph made the long and tiresome trip for God's sake - literally.

And as Jesus is presented to God, he's being presented to us too. That's one way of understanding the Eastern title: The Meeting of the Lord. Jesus and the world are introduced to each other. Symeon said it:

For my eyes have seen your salvation
Which you have set before all the nations,
A light of revelation for the Gentiles,
And a glory to your people Israel!

Isn't it interesting that the Gentiles (non-Jews) are mentioned before his own Jewish people?! Now we can understand Symeon's prophecy regarding Mary.

This child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel
and to be a portent that will be much debated -
and you yourself will be pierced to the heart -
and so the thoughts of many minds will be revealed.

What thoughts of many minds? A question posed to each human heart:  Do you accept  or reject Jesus? 

In the image at the top of this post, Giotto has painted the most profound moment when Mary lets go of the Infant, releasing him into the hands of Symeon. Releasing him into the hands of his own people? Look again, she is reaching across what looks to be an altar. Sacrifices are made on altars. The Child is reluctant and maybe fearful, as he reaches back to his mother.

Living on this planet requires a lot of letting go. Think of the recent ice storms in Atlanta. Your car is doing 360's on the ice and all you can do is let go. You house is being engulfed by flames in the drought of Southern California and you are totally powerless and can only let go

But then sometimes the letting go that's required is of a different kind: letting go of old hurts, resentments, or hatred. Letting go of the story of financial losses, friends, loved ones and pets departed. Getting older requires letting go. I fell on the ice here four times in three days. A friend said, "When you're over sixty, every fall is a hard fall." There's nothing to do but take normal precautions and then let go. Let go and let God, AA says. God is to be met in the letting go.

Finally, in this Presentation scene there is the invitation to present myself - in my own skills, energies, gifts and abilities, however limited. This pleases God. I visited a small intentional Christian community of lay people the other night. They are family people who work jobs during the week and each Saturday evening they meet for dinner, rosary and what they call a sing - an hour of  folk songs and hymns - robust voices and the wonderful accompaniment of guitars, banjos, mandolin, drums, flutes and whistles and piano.

Between the songs there was light-hearted conversation with the leader introducing the history of the selections. And just as the first notes of the next song were being played,  Amy looked over at Nate, paused, and said, "Oh remember, we're meeting at ten tomorrow morning to go to the nursing home to sing." Indeed, the whole group was going off to a country nursing home, and very often in these parts, when you wind up in a nursing home it's because you've outlived everyone else and are totally alone. 

And I thought, these people have young children and it's their weekend and they're giving up a couple of Sunday morning hours, while others are still in bed, to sing for the elderly. Remember in St. John's Gospel when there were thousands of hungry people and Jesus and the apostles were talking about getting food for them. And Andrew said to Jesus, "There is a little boy here who has five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish, but what good is that for so many?" That verse is about giving the little bit to Jesus - a little boy with a little food and Jesus did a wonderful thing with it. We can present ourselves to the world trusting that giving even the little bit matters.


6 comments:

  1. Thank you for your insights and and thought provoking post. How lovely to think of a group of people getting together and encouraging a love for their faith. And then sharing their enthusiasm with others. It should inspire us all.

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  2. Simeon, it strikes me, could be a representation of any of us who are doing our best to live a “righteous and devout” life or certainly are making an effort to be serious about our spiritual life but find ourselves impatient when it comes to prayer. Either we give up when our prayer is not answered according to our time schedule or at a minimum we become distracted by the stuff of life and are inconsistent in our prayer: on again, then off again. While prayer is not always asking for things we may for some reason think that we should be on the mountain when praying rather than in the flat valley with God.

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    1. There is nothing in the gospel text that suggests Symeon had a priestly or any kind of liturgical role - he simply happened to be there when the Child Jesus was brought to the temple by Mary and Joseph. And "...Symeon also took him in his arms and blessed God..." Everything is a gift. Receiving what this minute brings with gratitude is the spiritual life. Isn't it wonderful?

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  3. This representation of the Presentation of Jesus by Giotto was not known to me. It has a simplistic beauty to it. Thank you for pointing out some of the subtleties such as the meaning of the altar and the letting go and the reaching back of the Christ Child. Metaphors for our own lives.

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  4. God Bess these selfless people who give of themselves and for everyone who is able to put forth even a little of their time and talent. Sometimes we forget that these everyday people are are out there providing the loaves and the fishes so that God's presence can be felt.

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  5. Someone asked, "What's an intentional community?" It means they have chosen to live with one another in community. They have created their lifestyle in community. Unlike a parish which is decided by diocesan drawn boundaries. Many of the people in an intentional community sell homes and buy new property near the other members. Often they share resources in common. They welcome people generously to be part of the community as they wish.

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