THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
The Christian tradition of the feast of the presentation is synonymous with the Festival of Light. Rightly so because when Jesus was brought to the temple, He was presented as the Light to the nations through the lips of the prophet Simeon.
As faithful Jewish parents, Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple in obedience to what was prescribed in the Mosaic law, that the firstborn sons belong to the Lord: “Consecrate to me every firstborn that opens the womb among the Israelites” (Ex. 13:2). Just like any other ordinary firstborn sons, Jesus was bought back by His parents through a simple offering, although Jesus as the Son of God did not need to be redeemed. The presentation of Jesus also coincided with the purification of Mary since a Jewish mother who had just given birth was considered ritually impure and needed purification in the temple. Even if Mary was undefiled being the Immaculate Conception, she still underwent the ritual purification as prescribed by the Mosaic law. With Mary presenting herself and Jesus in the temple, She is also considered in Christian tradition as "Our Lady of Light". With this understanding, we bring candles in the church today to be blessed by the priest.
The prophecy of Simeon in our gospel this Sunday is called "Nunc Dimittis" which literally means "I can die now". It completes the four canticles in the Infancy Narrative by St. Luke the others being the Magnificat of Mary, Benedictus of Zechariah and Gloria in Excelsis Deo of the angels. Simeon in his song became the spokesperson of those who had been waiting for the Messiah especially in the Old Testament. He spoke about the fulfillment of all the prophecies which he himself had seen in the person of the little child being offered by the parents. He described Jesus as the long awaited the Savior and the Light who will reveal the hearts of people.
Simeon prophesied the destiny and mission of Jesus, that He would be a sign to be contradicted and that Mary would share in the destiny of her Son through a sword that would pierce her heart. Henceforth this spiritual sword would never leave Mary, always looming to pierce her heart like the sword of Damocles hanging by a single hair over his head.
Mary and Joseph never considered themselves different as compared to ordinary Jews; they never demanded any special treatment. Mary knew right away that her motherhood was not just a privilege but a mission with the cross.
When our parents brought us to Church for our baptism, they offered us to God to be consecrated. Although it may be different with the Jewish law, we were also “bought back” not with any other offering but by the sacrifice of Jesus. The day we were presented to the temple for our baptism, henceforth we belong to God. With our baptism, we were also given a mission and destiny to fulfill. Our parents do not only have the responsibility to raise us as good Christians but should help us in the fulfillment of our destiny and mission in life.