Archive for February 2nd, 2021

The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple - Orthodox  Church in America

The Lessons: 1 Samuel 1: 21-28    Psalm 84   Hebrews 2: 14-18     St. Luke 2: 22-32

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About the Feast Day: 

Thirty-two days  after Jesus’ circumcision and seventy weeks after the announcement of John’s birth to Zechariah by the angel Gabriel, the Lord comes to His temple to fulfill the Torah (Luke 2: 22-38).  The days are fulfilled with the presentation. Jesus’ parents keep the Torah and fulfill it by bringing Jesus to His true home. Also, Jesus’ parents offer the alternative sacrifice of two turtledoves or two pigeons. Leviticus 12:8 allows this instead of a lamb, since not everyone could afford a lamb (showing the poverty and humility of Joseph and Mary). Yet no lamb was necessary because already here at forty days old, Jesus is the Lamb brought to His temple for sacrifice. Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis is a beautiful example of the immediate response to this inauguration of God’s consolation and redemption in the Christ Child. Speaking to Mary, Simeon also prophesies about the destiny of the child. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

After His circumcision, (Mary) next waits for the time of her purification: and when the days were fulfilled, and the fortieth was the full time, God the Word, Who sitteth by the Father’s side, is carried up to Jerusalem, and brought into the Father’s presence in human nature like unto us, and by the shadow of the law is numbered among the firstborn. For even before the Incarnation the firstborn were holy, and consecrated to God, being sacrificed to Him according to the law. 25 O! how great and wonderful is the plan of salvation! “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” He Who is in the bosom of the Father, the Son Who shares His throne, and is coeternal with Him: by Whom all things are divinely brought into existence, submitted nevertheless to the measure of human nature, and even offered a sacrifice to His own Father, although adored by all, and glorified with Him. And what did He offer? As the firstborn and a male a pair of turtles, or two young doves, according to what the law prescribed. But what does the turtle signify? And what too the other, the dove? Come, then, and let us examine this. The one, then, is the most noisy of the birds of the field: but the other is a mild and gentle creature. And such did the Saviour of all become towards us, shewing the most perfect gentleness, and like a turtle(dove) moreover soothing the world, and filling His own vineyard, even us who believe in Him, with the sweet sound of His voice. For it is written in the Song of Songs, “The voice of the turtle(dove) has been heard in our land.” For Christ has spoken to us the divine message of the Gospel, which is for the salvation of the whole world. (St. Cyril of Alexandria; emphasis added)

Jesus is the song of songs Who so stirred the waiting heart of Simeon, and so much so, Simeon praised in poetry his song which the Church calls: “The Nunc Dimittis” (St. Luke 1: 29-32), Now let your servant depart in peace. The Nunc Dimittis is the perfect post communion hymn in the Divine Service.

In our country, the equivalent of a turtledove is the mourning dove:  both have a mournful song.  On my Grandparent’s farm, my Grandmother was wont to tell me that when the turtledove sings it means we need rain. St. Cyril says the song of Christ’s Word soothes the world.  A pastor and seminary prof told us at a seminar that when proceedings at a church council were rough, he would lead them in a hymn and the song helped, “clear the air”.  The problem is the dearth of singing of the Lord’s song these days, which is, “…the message of the Gospel, which is for the salvation of the whole world.”  We need to clear the air, not the way we want to, but as the Lord has taught us through His Word.

Maybe the mournful song of the turtledove can remind us we yearn for the Lord and His Word to fill us.  I don’t think the turtle dove’s song is for rain, but this song reminds us of yearning to walk wet as the Lord’s baptized.  It is so easy to add to the cacophony of the world.  Into the cacophony, the infant Christ Jesus was brought into the Temple and He would enter into the noisy world of dispute and death for the “falling and rising of many in Israel”.  He would be the Sign spoken against and as He bore our sin, to arise again, “The voice of the turtle dove has been heard in our land”

When Israel was captive in Babylon, the Psalmist sang and asked, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137).  Upon alien soil, Israel can no longer sing the joyful songs of Zion which is Jerusalem, in Babylon.  The depth of  Israel in bondage is poignantly sung in verses 8-9, a kind of “wish prayer”[1] We wish the oppressors who taunt us would likewise be destroyed. Yet the motivation of such is the beauty of the Lord’s Song in sharp contrast to the world.  How do we sing the Lord’s song in a land increasingly foreign to us, even our own land?  Maybe it is to remember  for Christians, “Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign country” (Letter to Diognetus, 2nd century). Psalm 137 is the song of Two Cities, Babylon and Jerusalem. “It sings of resistance again one and devotion to another.” [2] Maybe we Americans are waking up to reality which is good.  Again, Dr. Mays: 

“As (Israel’s) song was preserved and used as a psalm, the names of Babylon and Jerusalem were on the way to becoming symbols—Babylon of the civilization of this world that does not know the LORD reigns, and Jerusalem of the city of God that is and is coming  (cf. Revelation 18: 21)…Faith can never “forget Jerusalem”. Faithfulness will remember in pain and prayer”

For the King has entered His Temple, and His loving servant sang,

“…for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

Let us pray…

“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51: 15)

O Lord, be Thou our Song ever in our land and guide us ever by Thy light and the glory of Thy Son Jesus presented in Thy Temple, which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples.  Lord, open Thou our lips that we may sing Thy praise in an alien land that men no longer be strangers to Thy mercy and reconciled in Thou, no longer estranged from one another, and may all people join us in the song of Thy Church. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

[1] James L. Mays, Commentary on the Psalms 

[2] Ibid

Read Full Post »