Sunday, February 2, 2014

FR. RICARDO FROHMADER - ST. ALBAN MISSION: Homily for the Feast of the Presentation

Saint Alban and Saint James celebrated Candlemas today. Candles were distributed to the congregation, blessed, and lit in honor of Jesus, the light of the world. Today we marked the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the Temple, as well as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. In the Temple, Simeon hails the infant Messiah as a light for a revelation to the gentiles. We light candles to remember that Jesus brings light into the darkness of our world. We are reminded that we too should be givers and bearers of light in this world. At service's end, the participants took their candles home with them. May their light help drive away any darkness!
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation. This Feast always falls on the 2 of February. Since our Churchgoing tends to be confined to Sundays, we seldom get the chance to celebrate the Feast. This year, February 2 falls on a Sunday, and therefore the Feast displaces the 4th Sunday in Epiphany. This Feast is also known traditionally as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, and Candlemas.
The Feast commemorates two events in the life of the Holy Family. A Jewish woman is ritually unclean for forty days after bearing a male child (eighty days if she has borne a girl). On the fortieth day the woman who has borne a boy bathes and becomes ritually clean once again. She comes before the priest with two doves or pigeons, if she is poor, one for a burnt offering, and one for a sin offering. So this Feast is also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin-la Purísima, in Spanish. The Presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem marks this occasion. It also marks another mandate, specific to first born children-they are to be offered to the Lord, or redeemed with a sacrifice. In the case of poor parents it is a pair of doves or pigeons that are offered to the Lord for the first born child.
Jesus is the light of the world. At his presentation at the temple he is recognized as the promised Messiah by two very old people-Simeon, and the prophet Anna. Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before seeing the Messiah. He takes the infant Jesus in his arms, and hails him as a Godsent light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to the people of Israel. Anna, who never leaves the Temple and who prays night and day also sees the child and speaks about him “to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”.
Because Jesus is the light of the world, candles have traditionally been lit on this day to symbolize that light which has come into our lives and souls. Here is the origin of the other term used for this Feast Day: Candlemas. This feast for some also marks the end of the Christmas season. It comes forty days after Christmas. Interestingly enough it falls midway between the December solstice and the March Equinox. It marks the mid-point of winter, the season of darkness and cold. White altar cloths and white stoles and chasubles are an option during those 40 days, and mandatory today. After the Feast of the Presentation, Ordinary time, marked by green cloth and vestments begins again for us, until Ash Wednesday which will fall on March 5th this year. We will also have a late Easter-it will come on April 20th.
This season we all know is called Epiphany, and it is full of epiphanies or revelations. As we have seen, since January 5th there is one revelation after another of the Christ and his significance to the world. Magi come to adore him and leave him gifts. We fast forward to his baptism at the hands of John the Baptist, and we see him receiving the Holy Spirit from above. John the Baptist recognizes him as the Messiah, because he sees the Holy Spirit descend on him like a dove. Disciples of John intuit that he is the Messiah. They leave John behind to follow Jesus. When Jesus calls, fishermen leave their nets and follow after him.-the revelation of the Messiah is that powerful. Now, today, we have two old and devout persons experiencing the sudden revelation of the Messiah in the form of a child brought to the Temple by his parents.
The Epiphany of Simeon and what he expresses is usually called by its Latin name the Nunc dimittis. Literally these words mean “now dismiss”. In traditional language Simeon’s Song says: “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, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel”. Simeon has been waiting for this moment, and now he is ready to leave this life in peace, for what the Holy Spirit promised him has been fulfilled. He is satisfied that there is hope for the world.
The prophet Anna is also of a great age. We know from the Old Testament that women were prophets and played major roles in transmitting the word of the Lord. Anna is in this tradition. She too has an epiphany when the Christ child is brought to the temple. She clearly discerns that this child is divine and speaks about him to the people who are “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”. From the Gospel account of the Presentation one senses the ferment, the expectation and the longing for the coming of the Messiah at the time of Jesus’ birth. The question that is unanswered until Jesus begins his ministry is the nature of the redemption that this child brings to Israel-will it be political, or will it be spiritual? And how will it come about?

 When the Magi brought their gifts to the Holy Child, myrrh was one of them. Myrrh was associated with death, and used in the preparation of a body for burial. There is gold, there is frankincense, but in the myrrh there is also the foreboding of a death that the child will suffer. Likewise amid the joy of Simeon’s epiphany and his thanksgiving to God for the baby Messiah, there is a prophesy that portends future tribulation and sorrow: “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too”. These are the words spoken to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When she witnesses the crucifixion of her son many years later, is this dreadful witness not the sword that will pierce her soul? So the gift of the Magi and the words of Simeon also presage death and sorrow, but out of that sorrowful death will come the resurrection and our redemption from the power of death. We rejoice today to proclaim this, and with our candles affirm that truly, Jesus is the Light of the World.

St. Alban English Mission, Antigua, Guatemala is a outreach project of The St. James English parish, Episcopal Diocese of Guatemala, IARCA

The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria, Rector and Primate

The Reverend Ricardo Frohmader, Associate Minister
St Alban Mission holds services every Sunday at Noon
Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua Guatemala
All are welcome - See welcome letter at the sidebar

No comments:

Post a Comment