Jerusalem, with its magnificent Temple, had long stood at the heart of Israel’s history. Throughout the ages it had signified God’s presence among his people. Countless generations of pilgrims had sought God’s presence within the temple precincts. It was therefore entirely fitting that the infant born at Bethlehem, the definitive expression of God’s presence with his people, should be presented in the Temple as the fulfilment of God’s abiding presence with his people.
Speaking long ago of the Messiah who would enter his temple, the Prophet Malachi had foreshadowed both the presentation of the infant Jesus at the Temple, and his subsequent death and Resurrection in Jerusalem.
Malachi’s primary concern had been that the city, and indeed its people, would be found worthy of God’s presence. “Who will be able to resist the day of his coming? Who will remain standing when he appears?”
The prophet indicated that the coming of the Lord would be preceded by a period of purification, when the people would be refined as silver and gold are purified in the furnace. Only then would Jerusalem be ready to welcome her Messiah.
As we contemplate the Presentation of the Child Jesus at the Temple we are inevitably challenged to question our own lives. Are we like Simeon and Anna, who recognised the Lord at his coming, ready to welcome that same Lord into our hearts? Simeon and Anna were described as upright and devout, and, above all, people who longed for God’s presence and the comforting of his Holy Spirit. Theirs was a true poverty of Spirit, acknowledging that without God life is unfulfilled. The sensitivity that led them to recognise their Lord was born of a longing that refused to be satisfied with the superficial.
Let us pray that we, like Simeon, might so long to live in the presence of the Lord that we rejoice to find his presence in the humblest moments of our lives. “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see.”
May we welcome Christ as the light that overcomes our inner darkness and reveals the glory that is ours as those who are called to live in his presence. Luke records that the child Mary and Joseph presented in the Temple returned with them to Nazareth, and that in their presence he grew to maturity, filled with God’s wisdom and favour. May the Christ we welcome continue to grow in our hearts, that we might come to the fullness of his wisdom and favour with the Father.
Let us not be overwhelmed by our unworthiness. In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ comes to us as the brother of our humanity, one who is compassionate and trustworthy. Through his birth he became so completely one with us that he has experienced every temptation, and is therefore able to help all who are tempted. To welcome Christ is to embrace his journey, a journey that does not flinch from suffering but makes it the path to salvation. “You see this child: he is destined to be a sign that is rejected, and a sword will pierce your own soul too, so that the secret thought of many may be laid bare.”
With Mary may we live and die with her Son and, in him, be raised to new life.