Before Monday comes, allow me to wish you for the final time this year a Merry Christmas.
February 2nd – the feast of the Presentation, or the Purification of Mary, or Candlemas -- was once considered the end of the Christmas season, because it was the final act of the Holy Family related to the birth of Jesus.
So when you hear all the media hype on February 2nd about the ground hog and the sun and shadow, remember that it is Christ who is the true light of the world.
For the purpose of this blog, let us look at this feast day in terms of the family and fatherhood, for it was Joseph, the “just man,” who led Mary and the newborn child to Jerusalem to perform the ritual in the temple.
According to the Mosaic law under which Jesus was born, 40 days after delivering a firstborn male, a mother was to come to the temple to offer a sacrifice for her purification and receive the blessing of the priest. The child was to be “presented” to the Lord God.
As devout Jews, Mary and Joseph did exactly as the law prescribed. But, as the Gospel of Luke tells us, something unusual occurred at the Presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:22-40).
The old man Simeon, who is described as “righteous and devout,” had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. When he saw the child with his parents, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and proclaimed that he was the Promised One of Israel. The words of Simeon “Lord, now thou may let thy servant depart in peace,” have been exalted by the Church as the “Nunc Dimittis,” which is prayed every night by priests, religious and devout laypersons at bedtime.
This temple scene, of the old man holding up the babe, and Mary and Joseph hearing the prophecy of Simeon, has been depicted in many famous paintings. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this moment, when it was proclaimed in the heart of God’s house, the Temple of Jerusalem, that the Savior had arrived.
Simeon also proclaims that the Savior will be for all nations, not just the Jews, when he calls him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” This “light” passage is the basis for the traditional celebration of Candlemas, when candles are lighted in the darkness on February 2nd to symbolize the light of Christ leading the Gentiles (that is, all non-Jews).
As a parting thought for fathers, let us contemplate the role of men in bringing about this moment of revelation. Joseph, the “just man,” meets in the temple the “righteous and devout” man Simeon. This tells us that a man, by fulfilling his duties like Joseph, and waiting patiently and prayerfully like Simeon, can help bring light into the world for the glory of God.
A man can be holy in his day to day life.