The Presentation of Christ in the Temple

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On 2 February, the Maronite Church commemorates the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Presenting the first born male at the temple was a Jewish tradition. The parents of a newborn would bring the child, forty days after their birth to make an offering for purification. Mary and Joseph followed this customary offering by bringing with them the newborn Jesus and two young pigeons.

The Maronite has a liturgy for this day to commemorate the feast. The prayer of forgiveness professes our understanding of Jesus’ destiny to be a sacrifice.

Although you are the offering and offer yourself as the sacrifice, you went up to the temple to offer a sacrifice according to what was stated in the law.

In Luke’s Gospel we are told that at the temple, the Holy Family were met by Simeon to whom:

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

Luke 2:26

The Jewish people were awaiting the Messiah and the virginal birth was prophesied in Isaiah.

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman[a] is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Anna the prophetess is also mentioned as being present at the presentation of the Lord. Anna was a widow and spent most of her time in the temple worshiping, fasting and praying. She gave thanks to God for what she had witnessed and spoke about the child to many people who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2;36-38)

On this day, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple and they did so accordance with Mosaiac law. This event reveals Jesus in public. This is a celebration of the revelation of the Lord who has come for our redemption.

Another aspect of this occasion is consistent from the idea of the temple in the Protevangelium of James. We are told that from the age of three, Mary was placed in the Temple, and remained there until the age of 12 (puberty, at which age she would be impure according to Jewish law), weaving the veil of the Temple.

She continued weaving it although she had to leave the Temple, and not until she had conceived the Lord, did she finish the veil? In other words, Our Lord represented the veil (Hebrews 10:20 says that the Lord’s flesh was the veil – presumably because it hid His divinity.) That is why the weaving of it could not be completed until after the virginal conception had taken place.

Further, the death of the Lord coincides with the rending of the veil of the Temple from top to bottom at the time of His death (Matthew 27:5).

That is, the weaving of the cloth of the veil which was begun in the Temple, was completed outside of it, when the Lord was born. It was placed in the Temple, where it hung until He was slain, at which time it was rent. Our Lord, therefore, was the very soul of the Temple, the very life of the religion.

The celebration of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus to the Temple in the Maronite church, has the rite of blessing of the candles. These candles are taken home and are to be lit to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world.

Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

John 8: 12

In this world full of darkness where some focus on loving their own people. We are reminded that God has come to open our eyes, to help us not be afraid of the unknown. His humanity reminds us of our own humanity and all humanity. He lights the way so that we are not afraid of the unknown, the stranger, the refugee, the homeless or people of different faiths. Let us turn to God who will light the way where we are too afraid to go because we are unsure of the consequences. Let us not be afraid as Jesus has come to be our light.

Fr Yuhanna Azize and Christina Maksisi


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