Pastor’s Column

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord 2014

My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,

As we are sitting in Church today for the celebration of the Eucharist, it is February already.  I always say that we have roughly eleven months until a new year again.  God blessed us with more snow while the bishops in California are asking for rain.  Yes, we can share some snow with them don’t you agree?  Because of the natural winters in Minnesota they allow us to hope for a better spring.  I am guaranteeing spring will be here soon.

This weekend, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, with the blessing and procession of candles included in today’s liturgy.

According to the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII (soon to be saint) the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, this feast marks the end of the Christmas season. The reformed calendar has designated that the Sunday after Epiphany, the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, is the end.  This feast in the Ordinary Form is no longer referred to as the “Purification of Mary” as some of you still remember but the “Presentation of the Lord”.

The Gospel introduces us to different people and events that in themselves provide numerous lessons and themes for further reflection. First of all, Mary and Joseph respect the Mosaic Law by offering the sacrifice prescribed for the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

At the end of the Gospel Simeon’s prophecy of Mary’s sufferings is emphasized. The announcement of the elderly in the temple instead spoke of the Lord’s work of redemption that He would complete associating Himself through suffering to His Mother. Therefore, there is a strong Marian dimension to this feast and so in the Liturgical Calendar of the Extraordinary Form it is called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This refers to the other aspect of the presentation that consists of the ritual purification of Jewish women after they had given birth. In Mary’s case this purification was not necessary, but it indicates the renewal of her total offering of herself to God for the accomplishment of His Divine Plan.

Simeon’s prophecy also announces that Christ will be ‘a sign of contradiction’. St Cyril of Alexandria, in one of his homilies, interpreted the words ‘sign of contradiction’ like a noble cross, as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians ‘a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles’ (1 Cor 1:23) […] It is a sign of contradiction in the sense that those who loose appear as foolish while in those who recognize its power [the cross] reveals salvation and life’ (c.f. PG 77, 1044-1049).

As we are celebrating the feast with the candle in our hand let us go meet the Lord at the Eucharistic table like the five wise virgins lighted their lamb for the Lord.

Rev. Joseph-Quoc Vuong