The Presentation of Our Lord, traditionally known as the Purification of Our Lady or Candlemas, is the traditional end of the Christmas season. Mary has waited the required 40 days and is now fulfilling the law of Moses in going to the Temple to be purified and to present her Son.
How beautiful it is to see God Himself submitting to the law, granted it is the law that He established. But God lowered himself to become a man and then showed us the perfect way to be a man. Mary, we know because of her perpetual virginity, did not need to be purified; she was always pure. Jesus did not need to be presented; He was the Lord, Himself. But the Holy Family willingly took part in the rituals of their religion, which are so much like the Sacraments we have now. We can look at them as an example in this regard. The law of the Church may seem unnecessary and silly at times, but the simple act of obedience to the Church, which in turn is obedience to God is the antithesis of the Original Sin of disobedience. Even God submitted to the law, so should we.
In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the law, the Holy Family gave hope to two people that had been waiting their whole lives for the Messiah. Simeon already had the Holy Spirit upon him, and recognized the Christ child as the promised salvation, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel." The Church prays this canticle every night in Night Prayer, remembering as we go to our beds that the salvation of Israel as well as the Gentiles has come into the world and redeemed us all. Anna also recognized in Jesus the salvation of her people, and the fulfillment of the promise made to all of Israel and the whole world that redemption would come.
Anna and Simeon are examples of long lives of devotion and prayer spent in waiting for the Messiah. For us though, our Messiah is already here. He has been made like us in every way. He was even tempted, as we are tempted. But He has also promised that He would be with us in our trials. God keeps His promises, and if we reach out to Him in our moments of temptation, He will keep His promises. When our prayer lives fall apart, when we are tempted to not hope in the Lord, to not follow His laws, we must seek grace. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit helps us to obey the laws of God and the Church and through our obedience we are drawn close to God again.
Sometimes all we can do is the bare minimum that is required of us. We are physically present at Mass on Sunday, we keep the other laws of the Church, but we still feel empty. If we persevere through the bare minimum and seek with our hearts a deeper life of prayer, God will fulfill His promise to us, and we will be refined.
Pray about how the practices of the Church have helped you grow closer to God.
Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls and her dear husband. You can find out more about her here.