Tag Archives: feasts

Presentation in the Temple, February 2nd



Temple of Jerusalem, 1st century, Israel Museum

The Presentation of Jesus in the temple, forty days after his birth, is a Christmas feast, even though our Christmas decorations are put away. It’s part of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

The temple of Jerusalem– a reproduction is pictured above– plays a big part in Luke’s Infancy Narrative,  even more important than the stable to which the shepherds came.  The angel announced John’s birth to Zachary in the temple, and there Jesus is presented after his birth. Later, he will come to the temple as a young boy and  impresses its teachers, as he listens to them and asks them questions.

Luke doesn’t dwell on the rituals or appearance of the temple– he may not know much about them–but the temple for him is where God is present, and so it’s the place where Jesus would be recognized. Forty days after his birth, two elderly Jews, Simeon and Anna, recognize him. They’re  faithful believers who  represent the generations waiting for the Messiah.

Old Simeon takes the child in his arms:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
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.”  (Luke  2,22-40)

Afterwards in his gospel Luke describes the rejection of Jesus by his neighbors in the synagogue at Nazareth– neighbors who saw him so frequently but don’t recognize him. Here in the temple two faithful Jews, Simeon and Anna, waiting for years, receive him. The long wai in the temple has not dulled their eyes. In fact, it has made them sharper. They see salvation in this little child, ” a light of revelation to the gentiles, and the glory of  your people Israel.”


So true, isn’t it, waiting can dull our eyes? Year by year can diminish what we expect and hope for. Day after day, faith can get tired. Prayers can become rote, sacraments can become routine. A holy place can become just another place.

It wasn’t so for these two elderly Jews. Their steady presence in the temple made them sharper, quicker to recognize the light that came to that place. We bless candles today, to burn in our church this year, and we pray that our church may never be dark but a place where we see the light of Christ and recognize his will for us and for our world.

“Outwardly Jesus was fulfilling the law, but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people. Prompted by the Holy Spirit Simeon and Anna came to the temple. Enlightened by the same Spirit, they recognized the Lord, so let us also gathered by the Holy Spirit, enter the house of the Lord and encounter Christ and recognize him in the breaking of the bread until he comes again, revealed in glory.”  (Feast of the Presentation)





The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It came in a blinding moment, so different than the call of Jesus’ other apostles.

Caravaggio’s dramatic painting of Paul on the flat of his back, arms outstretched, helplessly blind is a vivid picture of humanity before God.

Conversion is God’s work; God alone gives the gift of faith.

The first reading for his feast tell the dramatic story of his conversion. (Acts 22, 3-16)  In the gospel of Matthew,Jesus announces why he was called – to preach the gospel to all nations.(Matthew 16,15-18)

“May the Spirit fill us with that light of faith.”

For St. John Chrysostom  “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what we really are, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue a human being is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.

“When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them…

The most important thing of all to Paul was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ.”

May God give us that grace .

Today ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

May God give us all that grace.

The Triumph of the Cross


The Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross (September 14) originated in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus died and rose again. An immense throng of Christians gathered on September 13, 335 A.D. to dedicate a church built by the Emperor Constantine over the empty tomb of Jesus and the place where he was crucified– Golgotha.

The resplendent church, one of the world’s largest, was called the Anastasis (Resurrection), or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. From then on, Christian pilgrims from all over the world flocked there to see where Jesus was buried and where he died.

Until the Moslem conquest in the 7th century, vast crowds of bishops, priests, monks, men and women from all over the Roman empire continued to come annually to celebrate the feast, which went on for 8 days. It was Holy Week and Easter in September. One visitor, Egeria, a widely-traveled 4th century nun, said the celebration recalled the Church’s dedication, but also the day when “the Cross of the Lord was found here.”

Many Christian denominations continue to celebrate the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross on September 14th.

Visitors to Jerusalem’s Old City today see a smaller, shabby successor to Constantine’s great church, which was largely destroyed in 1009 AD by the insane Moslem caliph al-Hakim and was only half rebuilt in the 11th century by the Crusaders. Today the church bears the scars of sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires, and natural disasters.

The scars of a divided Christendom also appear in the church, where various Christian groups, upholding age-old rights, warily guard their own turf. Visitors have to wonder: Does this place proclaim the great mystery that unfolded here?

Like our reaction to the sacraments, we ask Is This All There Is? It takes time to discover the Cross and its triumph.

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Feasts like the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain, which we celebrate today, are gifts from God, helping us to recall who we are and what we’re meant to be. We so easily forget.

Here’s a short excerpt from a sermon byAnastatius of Sinai from today’s Office of Readings.

“Let us run with confidence and joy to enter into the cloud like Moses and Elijah, or like James and John. Let us be caught up like Peter to behold the divine vision and to be transfigured by that glorious transfiguration. Let us retire from the world, stand aloof from the earth, rise above the body, detach ourselves from creatures and turn to the creator, to whom Peter in ecstasy exclaimed: Lord, it is good for us to be here.

It is indeed good to be here, as you have said, Peter. It is good to be with Jesus and to remain here for ever. What greater happiness or higher honour could we have than to be with God, to be made like him and to live in his light?

Therefore, since each of us possesses God in his heart and is being transformed into his divine image, we also should cry out with joy: It is good for us to be here – here where all things shine with divine radiance, where there is joy and gladness and exultation; where there is nothing in our hearts but peace, serenity and stillness; where God is seen.

For here, in our hearts, Christ takes up his abode together with the Father, saying as he enters: Today salvation has come to this house. With Christ, our hearts receive all the wealth of his eternal blessings, and there where they are stored up for us in him, we see reflected as in a mirror both the first fruits and the whole of the world to come.”