By Francesco Follo

The offering of the Son to the Father and the meeting with the brothers.

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord – The Hypapánte [1]– February 2, 2020

Roman Rite

Mal 3:104; Ps 24: Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40

Jesus offered to His Father

Ambrosian Rite

Mal 3:1-4a; Ps 24: Rm 15:8-22; Lk 2:22-40

The Lord in his holy Temple

  • Encounter of Jesus with the Father and with the brothers.

Forty days have already passed since Christmas, the day when Christ entered the world, and the liturgy asks us to celebrate the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The celebration of this fact is called the “Feast of the encounter” because it celebrates the meeting between the child God, who brings news, and the humanity on hold, which is represented by the elderly Simeon and Anna in the Temple. This divine child humbly enters his house and is welcomed by Simeon and Anna. The priests of the Temple do not welcome him because they cannot recognize God in a poor Child.

What are the provisions that allow this recognition? Simeon’s humility and Anna’s pity. Let’s invoke the Holy Spirit so that we too can recognize the Redeemer of the world and accept that this Child is our salvation and that of the whole world.

In his weakness, humility, and poverty the child Jesus judges and condemns the world, which is not poor but proud and believes in strength. Instead, He saves Simeone and Anna, two old people poor and weak due to their age. These two are safe. God does not need great manifestations, great events to show his glory; his presence judges us. If we are like him, we see him and recognize him. If, on the other hand, we are full of pride, we have nothing in common with him and we are excluded from his light. With the presentation in the Temple (but not only there) God makes himself present, but he makes himself recognized only by humble souls, who have no weight in the world, whom men forget and do not consider. Only they recognize the Christ. God is an Infant, who can neither speak nor walk or is a man hanging from a cross. The supreme revelation of God is the supreme lowering (the evangelical term is kénosis).

Let us contemplate Mary and Joseph while they go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer Jesus to the Lord ” just as it is written in the law of the Lord “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord”, and to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord””. (Luke 2, 24-25). Once again we have been told of the poverty of the parents who don’t have the opportunity to offer a lamb but with a heart full of emotion offer all they have two small birds, innocent and pure. They do not know that the one they hold in their arms will be indicated by John the Baptist as “the Lamb of God.”

The offering of Jesus to the Father, accomplished in the Temple, is the prelude to his total offering on the cross. This act of obedience to a legal ritual, the fulfillment of which neither Jesus nor Mary were required to do, is also another lesson of humility like the one which was given to us at Christmas when we beheld the Son of God and His Mother in the moving, humble frame of the manger.

God is manifested in weakness, in poverty, in the innocence of childhood and in purity, and only the pure in heart see God. Those that have changed their mind and those who have renounced the way of humanly seeing and thinking can “see” God manifested in the lives of men and can understand what God does.

Among these pure in heart are Simeon[2] and Anna[3] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.

Pure heart and pure eyes allow Simeon to recognize in the child, brought to the Temple by a humble pair, the promised Messiah, the anointed of the Lord foretold by the prophets and awaited for centuries. The old man Simeon, “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel” (cf. Lk 2:25 ), moved by the Holy Spirit goes into the temple, welcomes the child into his arms and blesses God with a touched heart because the salvation for him, for his people and for all people has come. With his eyes and with his heart the old prophet recognizes in that child the Savior but also prophesies that the long-awaited and invoked light will be for many a sign of contradiction and not of resurrection because they will not be able to welcome the light of His word which reveals the thoughts of every human heart.

The other humble person who receives God visiting the Temple is Anna. This woman has, by the grace of God, the happiness and the good fortune to see the face of God in the child Jesus. I believe that it is legitimate to look at this woman as the representative of all mankind, whose fate is to see the face of God and reflect in it. This widow represents all humanity that is a widow because doesn’t have a groom, her “other side”. The other part of man is God. This lady has the grace to see him face to face and to rejoice in the presence of the bridegroom, as the bridegroom rejoices in the presence of the bride. This woman represents the final marriage of the heavenly Jerusalem when humanity will meet with the groom. Basically we are all “widows” in anticipation of the wedding. She finally celebrates God, whereas before she was fasting with prayers day and night in the temple, and celebrates God speaking of the Child who is the liberation for all. This woman represents the final marriage of the heavenly Jerusalem when humanity will meet with the Groom. Basically we are all “widows” in anticipation of the wedding, of the encounter with God-Love.

It is a humble and inconspicuous encounter like that of the new-born Son of God brought to his Father’s house. In fact, we should not think of the Presentation in the Temple as a grand event with a large procession. We should not imagine the admiration of the High Priest who welcomes Jesus with open mouth and perhaps with the Levites and the other priests at his side. None of this happened, nobody noticed anything, except old Simeon, who sang his thanksgiving song to God because he had seen salvation, and the 84-year-old widow. Here is to whom the Lord appeared, to whom he revealed himself, and here are those who are the first messengers in Israel of the divine event. This is a very important thing. In general, the evangelists see in John the Baptist the one who announces and indeed indicates the Savior of the world “Here is the lamb of God”. But before St. John the Baptist there were Simeon and Anna the prophetess. If we are humble and full of pity we will be able to do the same: to indicate Christ with joy for a fulfilled life, full of years and grace.

  • Two people carry the baby to offer him.

We have presented two people who welcomed the Son of God who “was visiting” his house, and who were able to recognize him in a small child brought by two poor and humble people: Joseph and Mary who offered “their” Son of God. Let’s look now to Saint Joseph and above all to Mary, who is the offering Virgin Mother “The Church herself has detected in the heart of the Virgin taking her Son to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (cf. Lk. 2:22) a desire to make an offering, a desire that exceeds the ordinary meaning of the rite” (Saint John Paul II, Marialis Cultus, # 20). It is this dimension of making the offering that we must understand as the message of today’s feast so that we can develop in us what we might call the spirituality of the offering which pushes each of us to live in the total gift of self to God as the Whole of our life.

Brought in the Temple by Mary, accompanied by her husband Joseph, Jesus is offered. As mentioned in the Gospel, Our Lady has been pushed to do it by the ancient Mosaic prescription, under which all the firstborn belonged to the Lord. But in the offering of Christ, the prescription is not only observed, it is perfectly fulfilled. By virtue of his participation in our humanity, the Word of God has become “the firstborn among many brethren” and offers himself for their salvation. “For this reason, coming into the world, he says, sacrifice or offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me … Then I said Behold I come to do your will, O God” ( Heb 10 5-7). Let’s dive now in the contemplation of this act of will by which Jesus Christ made ​​of his life and his humanity a “pleasing sacrifice to God.”

Today we celebrate the divine mysteries above all because we want to thank the Father for a special gift, precious fruit of Christ’s offering: consecrated life. The fact that there are men and women who follow Christ, loving Him with an undivided heart and fully liberated through the practice of the evangelical advises, finds its root in the gift that Christ made of himself on the cross.

Looking to the Consecrated Virgins we are deeply assured that Christ died and rose for us: they proclaim it not so much with words as with their consecrated existence. What is, in fact, the “core” of the existential decision of these women? It is having decided to belong solely and entirely to the person of Christ: their life is a consecrated life and it is forever. It is the peculiarity of their existence which expresses the radical nature of their being seized by Christ and of letting be seized without putting up any resistance. These consecrated women only want to rest in Christ and to fully adhere to Him (cf. RCV, n 24) following their model par excellence, Mary who said: “ Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word” ( Lk 1, 38).

Rooted in full membership in Christ, these consecrated women become the perfect expression of every Christian life, which is to comply fully with the Lord Jesus. Let’s wish to them to be faithful to their vocation, because in it all the believers, married people, and pastors of the Church, see revealed the deep nature of the Christian life.

In any case, I think that today we celebrate above all the feast of the first meeting of Jesus with the Father to whom, as every firstborn, He is offered and immediately redeemed. Let’s ask ourselves if we are really ready to offer, along with him, the best of ourselves to God our Father, so that, ” given back to ourselves,” we can go into the world as a blessing that illuminates the path of men seeking God and gives peace and joy. “Joy does not consist in having many things, but in feeling loved by the Lord, in becoming a gift for others and loving one another“(Benedict XVI, Angelus, December 13, 2009). It is a blessing that we should ask God for and then share with our brothers and sisters as did Pope Francis at the time of the first meeting with the Church and the world soon after his election as Bishop of Rome.

Patristic Reading

Hypapante

By St. Sophronius of Jerusalem

(“Orat. 3 de Hypapante” 6.7: PG 87, 3, 3291-3293)

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 Symeon, 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 Symeon’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.

(“Orat. 3 de Hypapante” 6.7: PG 87, 3, 3291-3293)

[1] The Christians of the East call the feast of the Presentation of the Lord Hypapánte, Encounter, because 40 days after his Christmas Jesus, light of revelation for the Gentiles and glory of his people Israel, was taken by Mary and Joseph to the Temple to fulfill the law of Moses and especially to meet his believing and exultant people. With the title of ”encounter” ( Hypapante ) the Byzantine Church wants to especially emphasize Jesus’ encounter with the old Simeon, namely, the new man with the old man. It is the feast of God’s encounter, by the incarnation of the Son, with humanity and with every man. This meeting takes place in the temple, the ecclesial life of every Christian and of every one of us. In Simeon and Anna it is represented the expectation of the whole people of Israel that in this meeting finally finds its fulfillment.

It is also called Feast of Lights (cf. Lk 2:30 – 32) and was originated in the Christian East. In the sixth century it spread to the West with different developments, in Rome with a more penitential character and in Gaul with the solemn blessing and the procession of candles popularly known as the ‘ Candlemas ‘. This rite of the blessing of the candles, of which there is evidence already in the tenth century , is inspired by the words of Simeon : “My eyes have seen your salvation , which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles ” ( id. ) .

Today’s feast, until the reform of the liturgical calendar, was called the feast of thePurification of the SS. Virgin Mary, in memory of the moment of the history of the Holy Family, narrated in chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke, in which Mary, in observance of the Law, went to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after the birth of Jesus to offer his firstborn and perform the rite of legal purification. The liturgical reform of 1960 has returned the original title of “Presentation of the Lord “.

[2] Simeon means “God has heard”, his waiting has been fulfilled

[3] Anna means “God’s grace”, Phanuel means “God’s face”, Aser, means “ happiness, good fortune”

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