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Archive for February 2nd, 2013

Scripture Lessons:

1 Samuel 1:21-28
Malachi 3:1-4
Luke 2:22-32

About the Feast Day: This feast brings the celebration of Christmas to an end, and by the Gospel’s prophecy that a sword will pierce the soul of the Mother of Jesus the day looks ahead to the crucifixion. It is therefore a bridge between the Nativity and the Passion. In origin, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by his parents is a festival of the Lord ( called by the Armenians “The coming of the Son of God into the Temple”), but it is also the occasion of the purification of the Virgin Mary in accordance with the requirements of the Law, see Leviticus 12.

In the Eastern churches, where the feast originated, the day is called Hypapante, “the Meeting” (of Christ with Simeon, and, by extension, of God with his people). The day was observed in Jerusalem at the end of the fourth century and was introduced in Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian in 542. In the West, the day seems first to appear in the sacramentaries of Gelasius ( seventh century ) and of Gregory (eighth century ), where it was called the Purification of Mary. Pope Sergius s (d. 701) seems to have introduced the practice of a procession with lighted candles on this date (as well as on the other Marian feasts), and the procession, somewhat incongruously, was in its origins a penitential rite ( down to modern times violet vestments were worn for this part of the ceremonies of the day).

In the Gospel, Simeon sings that the infant Christ is “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” and so the procession shows the entrance of the true light into the world and the gradual illumination of the world by him.  St. Sophronius ( died ca. 638) in a sermon for the Presentation exhorts his congregation:

. . . Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.

… So let us all hasten together to meet our God.

Sometime after the introduction of the procession, the custom arose of blessing all the candles to be used during the year on this festival of light (called “Candlemas” in England). This day is the appropriate time for candlelight services marking the conclusion of the celebration of the forty days of Christmas…Throughout Europe, February 2 was considered a portentous day for weather forecasting, and the American custom of observing Groundhog Day is but an extension of that custom.

(from Festivals and Commemorations by Philip H. Pfatteicher)

Reflection:  as I write this I do not know if the observers in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, have seen Phil and what he has done.  I will guess he has been seen!  This is the news on February 2nd every year.  I will state the obvious:  it is more important to see the light of the Savior in the face of the Child presented this day, trusting the witness of Simeon:  “Mine eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2: 30).  This is good news for this means your salvation and justification in His complete offering of Himself in all His Life and Death and Resurrection.

The movie Groundhog Day stars Bill Murray as a reporter who is, well, a real ass:  boorish and utterly self-centered.  He finds himself in a kind of a time warp reliving live February 2nd again and again being an ass. He even thinks he is “a god, just not THE God”  because he can do anything he wants and not get hurt. Man as the ass god?  He got that right.  But this turns out to be a kind of hell, well,  as the plot continues,  it’s more  purgatorial and he realizes he has to do right and  finally ” gets it right” by doing good to his friends, fellow workers, girlfriend and loving them.

How many times would you need to relive one day of your life to get your life right?  Right your bad karma?  How much good would you have to do to right your bad behavior?   This movie was a hit and one reason was it’s theme: we can get our lives right…without the Lord.  The reporter in the movie could do some external changes…but if there was a sequel his Old Adam would return with a vengeance. If we think we get our lives saved, it is  called keeping the Law and there is only one way to do that:  perfectly. Love is good but this movie is faithless. Now on this day, 40 days after Christmas, is about light of the world entering into the darkness of our inability to get it right.  Simeon saw his salvation and yours, Who’s body and soul would be pierced and is, “… appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel.” (Luke 2: 34).  We are made right by faith in Him who died and rose that we walk in the newness of His light, day by day. On our own we do not fit into God’s utter holiness of Jesus Christ but in Him He makes us fit for His loving purposes in our lives: to shine His light in this dark world.   Out of Him and faith in Him,  comes the deeds of love.  Let us pray…

Almighty and ever living God, we humbly pray that, as Your Only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple, so we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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