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Notes on Presentation/Purification – Luke 2:22-32

by pastorjuhl ~ January 28th, 2009

Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace”

The feast of the Purification brings the Christmas-Epiphany season to its end. The theology proper to today’s liturgy forms a fitting transition from Christmas to Easter (1:369).

To grasp its real significance we must associate it with the great solemnities of the winter cycle. Christmas, Epiphany, Purification – these are the peaks of the current season. It would not be impossible to discover a gradual heightening in the season’s “Light” motif and in man’s response to the divine outpouring of Epiphany. On Christmas “the Light shines in the darkness” and only a few “receive it” – Mary and the shepherds at the crib. On Epiphany the Light casts its bright beams upon Jerusalem (the Church), “the glory of the Lord rises over Jerusalem,” and the Gentiles come flocking out of the darkness to the City of Light. Lastly on Candlemas Day, the Light is placed in our very hands, to hold during the service. Light, therefore, plays a notable role in today’s liturgy (1:369-370).

The Greek Church very significantly calls the feast Hypapante, “the Meeting” or “Encountering.” In the temple (holy Church), mankind meets the Lord (1:370).

(Parsch on why this day is also called Candlemas): Candles are blessed for liturgical use and are also distributed to the faithful. In homes they should be lighted on the occasion of family devotions, in times of storm, household crises, or other dangers; also at the Communion of the sick and at the administration of Extreme Unction. The Church, moreover, wishes these candles to remind us of our baptismal candles; for the candles we held at baptism signified our heavenly adoption and our duties in the lay priesthood of Christ. Year after year we again receive a baptismal candle so that “with burning lamp” we may hasten to meet the Bridegroom when He comes for the heavenly nuptials (1:371).

Several Old Testament prophets had foretold how the temple’s greatest glory was reserved for the day when the Messiah appeared in its sacred precincts and revealed Himself. Their oracles are now fulfilled. Today Jesus enters His Father’s house for the first time; in future years He will often manifest Himself there as the Messiah and the Son of God (1:374).

(Simeon’s) beautiful canticle, the Nunc Dimittis, has been incorporated into the Church’s official night prayer (Compline), where it serves as an expression of thanksgiving for the graces and blessings of another day of redemption. As we sing it we see Simeon holding the Child Jesus in his arms and then, with grateful heart, retiring from his earthly service to God. We, too, are in the Lord’s service. At the close of the day we hold the Savior in our arms, mystically speaking; we hold Him in faith, in grace, in the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Altar. Fervently we thank God for His blessings; and we are prepared, if it be His will, to take our leave from the world. Yes, Lord, now You may dismiss me, Your servant. For with the eyes of faith I have again seen my Savior, Jesus. I, too, belong to the multitude of the elect. Christ is my salvation, my redemption, my Light; He enlightens the darkness of my mind and heart. He is my glory, my eternal recompense! Oh, that we could bring each day to a close with thoughts like these! How well they express the  noblest sentiments of a Christian heart at the end of the day. How beautiful would Simeon’s prayer fall from the lips of the dying; it would be the night prayer to life (1:375).

Blessed Martin Luther’s Festival Postil

Outwardly I am dying, but faith swallows up death. My eyes have received the Savior who takes away sins, death and hell. So if you would die safely and gladly, then treasure this verse [For my eyes have seen your salvation], that Christ your Savior has taken away all your need and misfortune. You have received Him in your eyes through faith. This sight makes you secure from all sins and death which are taken away and conquered through Christ (Part 1, p. 242).

The law had absolutely now power, no, not the least bit, over Christ. For He was way above it and is LORD over the law and was also born without sin of a virgin. So the law also cannot say to Him, “Do this. Don’t do that.” He could well reply, “My friend, I do and don’t do and have done it and not done it whatever there is to do or not to do. I don’t need you to add your commands to do or leave undone.” Now hold these two things side by side. I am under obligation to the law but don’t do it. Christ was not under obligation but did it. He is free with respect to it and yet He willingly submitted to it and kept everything that Moses established from the first letter of the law to the last, not out of necessity and compulsion, but rather from His free will (Part 1, p. 250).

Now when sins overtake you by the power of the law, then hold Christ against the law. While it frightens you with death because you have not done enough by the law, then turn your eyes immediately from that unto Christ, who came under the law and fulfilled it and say, “Dear fellow, if you would frighten me then I also fear the One who gave you your authority which you rebelliously used against Him.” Then the law must vanish and death flee. It can no longer terrify. For I have this authority from Christ. God defeated death, tread the devil under His feet not by my might, but through the young LORD and king. I enjoy not what is mine, but what is the LORD’s (Part 1, p. 252).

[Jesus] is the treasure who makes me rejoice and makes death a lively thing for me. That is, as I have said, as we see Him who was made under the law, and know Him as the One who helps us, how is it possible that we not be joyous and unafraid before death and every misfortune? Do you see now what this good old man has in his heart? Should he now die, he says he would go down in peace. It is a great comfort and a fine word of joy and peace even in death. Where does he get such a lively death? Only from the child (Part 1, p. 255-256).

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