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Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord


(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)


            We are blessed with a feast laced with beauty and solemnity. Can you picture what happened on that day? Joseph may have worn his best attire with his wife the ever-graceful Virgin Mary “glue” by his side. The child was given to them but He was forever the Lord’s and so it was fitting that they present him to the sacred official of the Lord at the Temple. Originally, the feast use to be celebrated in the Eastern Churches as “The Meeting.” In the sixth century, it begun to be celebrated in the West, where the focus became the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was accompanied by solemn blessings and processions with candles; hence, it is popularly called “Candlemas.” By offerings of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph and the prophecy of Simeon, the life of Christ here begins to point toward his Resurrection.

            Laws are among the things that keep us sane and unique among all created beings/things of the Lord. I am a lover of the Law especially sacred law. Jesus and his parents demonstrate with today’s feast and Gospel reading that they are law abiding. Luke’s account of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple underscores the fulfillment of all that the law required at the birth of a child. The descriptions in these verses continue to evoke echoes from the Hebrew Scripture, especially the dedication of Samuel in the sanctuary at Shiloh. The parallels between the two dedications are unmistakable: The birth of Samuel was promised beforehand; Hannah brought Samuel to the sanctuary and dedicated him to the Lord; Eli blessed Samuel’s parents; and the biblical account mentions the women who ministered at the sanctuary (1 Sam. 1:24-28; 2:20-22). Each of these elements is repeated in the presentation of Jesus and the blessings by Simeon and Anna.

            The scene returns to the Temple, where the Gospel began (Luke 1:5-25). The reference to “their” purification may indicate that Luke did not understand that purification was required for the mother only. Did Luke fail to interpret the Law rightly due to his profession as a physician or disinterest in the Jewish law which he may have believed should not hold central place in the new confraternity (Christianity)? The inclusion of the Gentiles did not allow over emphasis of Jewish laws and Luke was a champion of the gentile course. Let us not make presumption here for Luke is not with us to answer charges against him. In Law it is unlawful to accused a person without the him having recourse to defence; so, because of that let us rest that matter.

            Alternatively, some interpreters have sought to relieve Luke of the onus of misunderstanding by suggesting that he viewed the act as a family matter. Five of the nine references to the law in Luke occur in these verses (Luke 2:22, 23, 24, 27, 39; cf 10:26; 16:16, 17; 24:44), and the only two quotations from the Old Testament in Luke 1-2 occur in vv. 23 and 24 (Exodus 13:12 and Leviticus 12:8). Luke does not mention the requirement to offer a lamb, but the reference to the offering of two turtledoves or pigeons may underscore the point that Jesus was born to the poor of Israel. Attention to the details, allusions, and overtones of the passage, therefore, cast fresh light on its significance.

            As Joseph and Mary went about the process of fulfilling the requirement of the Jewish law regarding circumcision of the child and purification of the mother, they received God’s blessings through Simeon and Anna. This episode merits careful reflection among modern Catholics. The observance of religious requirements and rituals has fallen on hard times. The pressures of secularism and modern life have again reduced the significance of ritual observance in the lives of some Catholics. For some, religious rituals are reduced to church attendance at Christmas and Easter and to socially required ceremonies at births, weddings, and funerals. Let us not see laws as another form of enslavement but guides towards transcendence.


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