February 2, 2022
Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we begin with a reading from the prophet Malachi, a hurler of fire and brimstone in the 4th-5th century before Christ. The reading is an interesting choice and begs the question of how it relates to this Feast when a little baby comes to be blessed in the Temple.
Ah, perhaps that’s the hinge – the Temple, both actual and symbolic.
Malachi writes at a time when the second Temple has been restored. In other words, God is about giving the people a second chance to behave according to the Covenant. But they’re not doing such a good job — especially those in charge, the priests:
A son honors his father,Malachi 1:6
and a servant fears his master;
If, then, I am a father,
where is the honor due to me?
And if I am a master,
where is the fear due to me?
So says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests,
who disdain my name.
Through a series of prophetic oracles, Malachi admonishes the people to repent before it is too late because no unrepentant soul will withstand the judgement.
Handel interpreted the Malachi passage below, sung here by the prize winning countertenor, Jakob Orlinski.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
And who can stand when he appears?
For he is like the refiner’s fire,
or like the fuller’s lye.
In the passage from Hebrews, Paul presents the perfect priest, Jesus Christ. In taking flesh, Christ’s Body becomes the new Temple of our redemption. We stand before judgement already saved by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
In our Gospel, two aged and venerable prophets wait in the Temple for the Promised One. Their extended years of prayer already have proven them faithful. Now, Simeon’s and Anna’s long and complete fidelity is rewarded by seeing their Savior. They know Him because they have already created a place for him in the temple of their hearts. Now, they will meet their judgement in total peace. As Simeon’s prays:
“Now, Master, you may let your servant goLuke 2:29-32
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”
Poetry: A Song for Simeon – T. S. Eliot
Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.
Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come ?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.
Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.
According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.
Music: Music: Nunc Dimittis – Taizé (Latin and English text below)
Nunc dimittis servum tuum,
Now dismiss your servant
Secundum verbum tuum in pace.
according to your word in peace