We began today’s liturgical celebration in a very different way than we normally do to mark this most special feast. It is the feast the Presentation of the Lord. It falls every year on February 2. This year it happens to fall on a Sunday. I think the last time it did that was in 2003 because of the leap year.
The way for us to remember this feast day is it’s Groundhog Day. So whether the groundhog sees a shadow depends upon the light. We can remember now that when that groundhog day comes for us, it is such a more important day as we mark this reality of Jesus as the light of the world.
This feast, and the way we celebrated today is not a new one. It is an ancient one. Manuscripts speak of the church celebrating this feast with great solemnity as early as the fourth century. One writer attests in her visits to Jerusalem that the feast was celebrated with the very highest honor, with a procession just as Easter, and indeed this is what we did today because our procession today was similar to how we begin the Easter Vigil Mass — all carrying lighted candles. We emphasize what we celebrate again this presence of Christ, the Son of God among us, in the words of the creed that we pray every Sunday: “He who is God from God, light from light, True God from True God.”
It takes us back to the Feast of the Epiphany that we celebrate during the Christmas season as this feast celebrates how Christ is revealed as the Son of God as the Epiphany did so with the witness of the wise men bringing their treasures, those who represent us.
So today’s Gospel gives us two figures whose testimony again reveals the identity of who this child is. The two are Simeon and Anna. We know nothing else about them from Sacred Scripture other than these references that Simeon was a righteous in a devout man to whom it had been revealed by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Savior. We are told that Ana was a prophetess, a widow who never left the temple, who worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
They, of course, are also meant to symbolize us and to be models for us. For you and I have received the same promise that Simeon did. Of course, it is in a different time and place, but by the grace of faith, each of us has been able to see Christ the Savior. He is present to us in the life of the church, in her sacraments. Most powerfully here in this most blessed sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. He is here and we see him. But even more so than Simeon, who just held him, Jesus now actually comes to us and in us, to unite us to himself, to fill us with His grace and strength.
Like Anna we are told that she gave thanks to God this is what we do in this Eucharist
which means thanksgiving. We are also told that she then went about speaking of the child. That’s what you and I are called to do. We are to express our faith to all, to invite all to know the treasure that is our faith, and to lead all to him.
The candles that have been blessed today will be lighted throughout our year every time we come here to celebrate the Eucharist. In the words of our opening invitation by the priests, today we acknowledge it. “Here we are gathered together by the Holy Spirit to encounter Christ until he comes again, revealed in glory.” The light that the candles give is to remind us of Christ whom St. John refers to in his prologue, that great first chapter of his gospel, that he is the light of the human race, the light that shines in the darkness.
All of us are well aware of the darkness that surrounds us. It’s so easy for us to succumb to it, to despair, or doubt, or fear, to sin or to habits of sin. And yet all of the time our liturgical celebrations are meant to remind us that this light of Christ is given to us to give us his joy and his peace. Even the candles themselves are meant to give us an example of our Christian living. Pope Paul VI has a beautiful reflection on this feast. He writes, “As the candles receive light, we too have received the light of faith. The candles are being consumed in their burning, pouring forth that gift of life. We are to do the same in our sharing of the faith. As he then writes, “The candles exhaust themselves in silent sacrifice.”
Last week we celebrate the naming of our Bishop Bishop Ronald Gaynor who has served as the Bishop of Lexington for the last 10 years. He will be installed as our bishop on March 19 at our Cathedral of St. Patrick in Harrisburg. I hope many of you saw part or all of the press conference that he gave. He explained his episcopal motto which is taken from verse 16 of that same prologue of the first chapter of Saint John where the Evangelist writes, “From his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace.”
This is the good news. Jesus Christ is the Light of the World and has come to dispel all darkness. And he has come to fill us with His grace always and constantly so that it can overflow in our hearts. This is the great truth that we celebrate on this feast the presentation of the Lord as we are called to experience and to share that light. May all of us be guided by it so that one day as it was with Simeon and Anna who represent us, we too who have received this promise of seeing Christ in faith as we indeed do see him in the sacraments. As you and I are called to know him and love him more and more each day in our prayer and in our fasting, we too might like Simeon and Anna one day be brought to the joy of that never-ending light, The light of Christ in the eternal glory of heaven.