On February 2, the Universal Catholic Church observes the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, honoring Jesus Christ’s presentation in the Temple when he was a young child. Jesus’ presentation in the Temple reflects how he fulfills the Old Covenant. According to Old Testament law, a sacrifice had to be offered in the Temple when a child was consecrated to the Lord. Mary and Joseph honor this tradition, as Luke 2:22-24 describes:
When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
Simeon, a devout and upright man, had been told by the Lord he would meet the Messiah before his death. When Jesus comes to the Temple, we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Simeon and the prophetess Anna, acting – in the words of Pope John Paul II – as “representatives of the Old Covenant” – recognize Jesus’ Lordship as Messiah in this culmination of their watchful waiting. When Simeon receives Jesus, he blesses him, and prophesies Jesus’ future as Savior, proclaiming him the Light of the world:
[H]e took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“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 sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.” – Luke 2:28-32
On this day, we also reflect on the gift of consecrated life. Consecrated life is a state of life in the Catholic Church lived by those faithful who are called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way, by the making of public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. While the momentary satisfaction of selfish living ultimately leads to emptiness, living a life of holiness, dedicated to God’s service, will give true contentment and peace. As Pope Francis has expressed:
Consecrated life is born and reborn of an encounter with Jesus as he is: poor, chaste and obedient… And while worldly life soon leaves our hands and hearts empty, life in Jesus fills us with peace to the very end, as in the Gospel, where Simeon and Anna come happily to the sunset of their lives with the Lord in their arms and joy in their hearts.