Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, the Church commemorates the coming of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ into His holy Temple. Note that, beloved, it is His Temple to which the Lord comes, at least in partial fulfillment of the prophetic Scriptures: “The Lord is in His holy Temple” (Ps. 10 :4) and, again, “But the Lord is in His holy Temple; let all the earth fear before Him” (Hk. 2:20). But perhaps, most prophetically, are the words of the Prophet Malachi who foresaw the sudden appearance of our God in His holy Temple: “’And the Lord , Whom you seek, shall suddenly come into His Temple . . . But who may abide the day of His coming?’” (Ma. 3:1-4).
The Lord comes up into His Temple, brought by His pious and devout parents, we know, in order to fulfill all the Law He once gave on Mt. Sinai, which we heard just a few minutes ago in the readings of the Old Testament. They bring Jesus to be “churched.” He fulfills, along with His Mother, the 40 days of ritual purification, although neither one of them had need to be purified due to His immaculate conception and birth from the virginal womb untouched by man. But, so that He can fulfill all righteousness, He comes and is offered up to His Father as a living sacrifice as a firstborn male (Mt. 3:13-15). This is His first entrance into the Temple. There will be a second time as a young lad, recorded just a few verses later in this same chapter from St. Luke, when we find Him among the teachers of the Law – His Law – “both hearing them and asking them questions,” the Evangelist says (Lk. 2:41-52). And, there will be a third significant time when He will suddenly come to His Temple on the cusp of His Great and Holy Passion, and like a refiner’s fire, cleanse it of its defilement by all those who have set up shop in its sacred precincts, turning His Father’s house from a house of prayer into a den of thieves (Mk. 11:15-18; Lk. 19:45-47; Jn. 2:14-16).
The Meeting of our Lord in the Temple, sometimes referred to as His Presentation or the Purification of His Mother, liturgically completes the Nativity cycle for us, coming as it does 40 days after His Birth. All of this despite the fact that we have already celebrated His Baptism in the River Jordan on Theophany which launched His three-year ministry! In some ways, the placement of this feast serves in much the same fashion as flashbacks that are used in the movies to give the viewer insight or clues into what the heck is going on during the course of a movie. What Jesus will come to do as the Word of the Father made flesh has been announced beforehand by the Prophets, by the angels, and by the old God-bearer Simeon here in the Temple (Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-38; 2:1-20; Jn. 1:1-14). This Child offered up will, in fact, become a true Living Sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross. He will become the Bread and the Wine of the bloodless Sacrifice on the Church’s Altar. He has a destiny. He has been predestined in the eternal council of the Holy Trinity for this very purpose. “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world,” says the Apostle Peter, “but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, Who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Pe. 1:20-21). This Holy Child offered up in the Temple is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rv. 13:8). The very Lamb of God, “without blemish and without spot,” Whose precious Blood takes away the sin of the world. He will be lifted up on the Cross and be sacrificed for the life of the world and for its salvation (Jn. 1:29; 1 Pe. 1:19; Prothesis). “[I]n Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ep. 1:7; Co. 1:14). By Him, Who is the bodily fullness of the Godhead, He has reconciled us sinners to the Father, “having made peace through the blood of His Cross” (Ep. 2:1-10; Co. 1:19-20; 2:9).
The old God-bearer Simeon could have said just as well, taking the young Child up in his arms, “’Behold the Lamb of God!’” (Jn. 1:36). “’[T]his Child is set [destined] for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’” And, in fact, this is exactly what came to pass for this Child, Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Mary. Consider all of His meetings with others throughout His three-year ministry, and in each of them the words of the prophetic voice of Simeon can be heard (Mt. 10:34-42). “For the Word of God is living and powerful,” says St. Paul,
and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account (Hb. 4:12-13).
Each soul whom our Lord meets in the temple of His creation is forever impacted by His soul-piercing, soul-discerning eye. To the stubbornly impenitent scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees, and others like them, He is a pestilence in need of elimination. Their chant will become, “’Crucify Him! Crucify Him!,’” while those deplored by the world will cry out, “’Master, Jesus, have mercy on me! Lord, heal my demon-possessed child! Jesus, cleanse me from my odorous disease! Master, I wish to receive my sight! Jesus, Son of God, save me, the sinner!” And, finally, “’Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’” He indeed will become a contentious sign for many. Yet, by the will of His Father from all eternity, He is the sinner’s consolation and our redemption. For,
He bears our sins, and is pained for us; . . . He was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and by His bruises we were healed (Is. 53:4-5).
And so, with the old God-bearing Simeon, we, too, cry out,
‘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 people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.’
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Ex. 12:51-13:16; Lv. 12:1-8; Nm. 8:16-17
Is. 19:1-5, 12, 16, 19-21