Friday, February 02, 2007

The 4th Joyful Mystery

Today's feast has two names. In the Latin Church, it is the "Presentation of the Lord." In the East, it is the "Meeting" or "Encounter" (only they use the Greek word, Hypapanta or Hypapante--I'm not sure). Anyway, the Greek word has more of the "wedding" imagery in it, it seems to me, to match the candlelight procession that is traditional on this day. It is a picture of the parable of the bridesmaids and their lamps, "going out to meet the bridegroom" and escort him to the wedding. But only after they had "waited for the consolation of Israel," the way dear old Simeon and Anna did. (Simeon is one of my favorite Bible people, right up there with St. Barnabas.) Of course, we also get the candlelight tradition from Simeon's own words about Jesus, "the light of revelation to the nations and the glory of Israel." Used to be, people had their year's supply of household candles blessed on this day, to be reminded all year of this "light of Christ." We don't think of lights very much at all, unless the power goes out or we have to switch the clocks for Daylight Savings Time, so we can miss out on this very powerful image of Jesus as the "true light that enlightens everyone."
Today's feast was a favorite of our Founder. He especially saw Mary's involvement in the mystery of the Presentation. She was already acting as "Queen of Apostles" by "giving Jesus to the world" in the person of Simeon. In fact, the Jerome Biblical Commentary says that Luke's Greek word hints that Simeon "accepted" Jesus, as if the child were being entrusted or given to him to hold, not that (as one translation puts it), he "took" the child into his arms. The image our Founder chose to depict Mary as Queen of Apostles, was of the Virgin holding Jesus out toward waiting arms: a lovely Marian picture for today's feast!

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