Scripture: Lectionary # 524: Malachai 3:1-4. Psalm 24:188.8.131.52. Hebrews 2:14-18. Luke 2:22-40.
In Eastern liturgies the Greek word “Hypapante” is given to this feast in honor of our Lord. That word means the “meeting” of the Holy Family with Simeon and Anna in the Temple of Jerusalem. There are many homilies in Greek dedicated to the feast and Mary is often featured.
All of the readings have the theme of being faithful to the laws of God’s covenant with the people of Israel. The fulfillment of the law of purification for the mother is part of the practical fulfilling of the Torah in this ritual cleansing. Mary and Joseph submit to it and thank God for the gift of Jesus. Luke gives us the only account of this event and it is continued on in the daily remembering of the prayer of Simeon (Nunc Dimittis) “Now, Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace; you have fulfilled your word. For my eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all peoples to see: A revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel.”
The reading from Malachi gives us the requirements for entering the Temple for the ritual of sacrifice. A cleansing is necessary for entering the sacred presence of the Lord (Adonai). Malachi pronounces the universal rule of God (1:1) . He marks the transition from the era of prophets to that of the scribes. His name is simply the “messenger.” He is the last of the twelve prophets.
The Psalm continues the Temple theme by announcing the gates should be lifted for the entrance of the King. We reread this as Jesus’ being brought into the Temple. He is most worthy to do so for “a greater than the Temple is here.”
The selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews demonstrates Jesus’ union with all of humankind even in the cleansing ritual fro his mother. Jesus helps us to conquer the fear of death and the struggles in life that we undergo; he is totally human like us.
Luke gives us the actual event and describes with literary skill characteristic of his writing the whole ceremony together with the prophetic voices of Simeon and Anna. All who came into the Temple and are mentioned by Luke are filled with the Holy Spirit. The scene is messianic in the message of hope that issues from Simeon and Anna. The tender act of Simeon taking Jesus into his arms enables him to experience and prophesy the destiny of the Jesus and his mother Mary.
In our celebration of the Eucharist on this feast which is also known as Candlemass , we enter not only into the light that the child Jesus brings us, but also into his saving mystery called the Paschal Mystery of his sufferings, death, and resurrection. Mary will be the faithful disciple who becomes our model in this following of Jesus not only into the Temple but also to Calvary. Amen.