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Lindemann on Candlemas (Presentation of our Lord/Purification of Mary)

by revalkorn ~ January 10th, 2011

THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD ANDTHE PURIFICATION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY (CANDLEMAS)

Originally this was a feast of our Lord and not of the Virgin. Its earliest name was Hypapante (Greek for Meeting), and the reference was to the meeting of our Lord with Simeon. After the ninth century the expanding cult of Mary established the title The Purification of the Virgin. The later dogma of the Immaculate Conception seems incongruous, but the Roman Missal declares that the Blessed Virgin was not obliged to conform to the Purification, as her motherhood was beyond ordinary laws. The Roman Liturgy places the Presentation in the foreground. In the Middle Ages this feast was popularly known as Candlemas, originally a pagan festival. It takes its name from the traditional procession with lighted candies before the Service and from the custom of having the worshipers hold lighted candles during the Holy Gospel and from the Sanctus through the Communion. The Lutheran Church has retained the feast as a festival of Christ. If the day comes after Septuagesima, the Alleluia is omitted, also the Verse of the Gradual “I will worship,” etc., and the Nunc Dimittis is used as Tract. The Introit is the same as for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity. The historic Collect, as well as the prayer for the Blessing of the Candles, stresses the thought of Presentation and not of Purification.

The Introit. “We have thought of Thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple. According to Thy name, O God, so is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth. Thy right hand is full of righteousness. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness.”

The Collect, “Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech Thy Majesty, that as Thine only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto Thee with pure and clean hearts; through the same,” etc.

“Lord God, heavenly Father, who hast given Thy Son to be our Savior, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the Glory of Thy people Israel, we beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, that we may know Thy grace and fatherly will in Him toward us and obtain everlasting life; through the same Thy Son,” etc.

The Epistle (Mal. 3:1-4).

The Gradual. “We have thought of Thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of Thy temple. According to Thy Name, O God, so is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Alleluia! Alleluia! I will worship toward Thy holy temple and will praise Thy name. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Luke 2:22-32).

The Common Preface.

SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

By Johann Gerhard

When upon God’s command Moses had erected the Tabernacle in the wilderness, a cloud covered the tent of meeting; and the glory of the Lord filled the place. Moses could not enter, because the cloud abode upon the tent of meeting. When King Solomon had built and dedicated the first Temple in Jerusalem, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. God’s glory, God Himself, was present in a peculiar way both in the Tabernacle and in the first Temple, and He revealed His gracious presence by the outward sign of a bright and beautiful cloud. What greater honor and distinction could have come to these two buildings!

Solomon’s Temple was later destroyed as a consequence of Israel’s idolatry, as the Lord had threatened. Yet, remembering the covenant He had made with His people, the Lord promised that a second Temple was to be built and added expressly that the latter splendor of this house should be greater than the former. This seemed unlikely, for the second was far inferior to the first Temple. Many of the priests and Levites and old men, who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when the second was completed. There is nothing said of the glory of the Lord coming down and filling it. Why, then, did the Lord promise nevertheless that the glory of the second house would be greater than that of the first? The reason was that during the time of the second Temple, the Hope of the Gentiles, the Messiah, was to come and was to preach and to accomplish the work for which He was sent, as Malachi declared more clearly later: “Behold, I send My messenger to prepare the way before Me, and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; the Messenger of the Covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”

Through this advent of the Messiah the glory of the second Temple became much greater, because in Christ the whole fullness of deity dwelt bodily. In His assumed visible body He came to His Temple, in a manner far superior to the sign of the cloud in which the glory of the Lord was revealed.

A beginning of the Messiah’s advent to the second Temple was made when Mary, with her little Son as the truly First-born, presented herself before the Lord to offer the required sacrifices ordained by God, and aged Simeon openly declared her Child to be the Messiah, who had come. We shall briefly explain the two stories of the Holy Gospel:

I. The Story of Christ’s Presentation in the Temple, and
II. The Story of Simeon

I

The first story is told in verses 22 to 24. Here the Evangelist refers to two laws of the Old Testament. The first, regarding the purification of women, is recorded in Leviticus 12. If a woman bore a male child, she was considered unclean for forty days; if a female, for eighty days. Then she was to bring to the priest at the door of the tent of meeting a lamb one year old for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering. If she could not afford a lamb, she had to bring a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering, the other for a sin offering. These the priest offered before the Lord and made atonement for her. This law not only served to safeguard the woman’s health but was chiefly a reminder of original sin, inherited by the children through birth, deeply affecting their nature. The male child received circumcision on the eighth day “as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith” (Rom. 4:11), whereby his transgression was forgiven and his sin covered, and he was received into God’s covenant of grace. Nevertheless, the mother and child were considered unclean for a time longer. Also to the child the law applied: “When the days of her purification are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter.” This was to indicate that the poison of original sin was rooted so deeply in human nature and permeated all members of the body, yes, also all powers of the soul so thoroughly that even after forgiveness of sin was received in holy Circumcision and sin had begun to die, evil lust remained in the flesh and must be opposed by constant repentance and the indwelling of the Spirit.

The burnt offering and sin offering for purification indicate that if the remaining sinfulness is not to condemn us, we must cling to Christ in true faith; for He is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. His holy offering on the Cross has the power to take away the uncleanness of our sins. We must also moan like a dove in genuine sorrow and penitence (Is. 38:14) and hide in the cleft of the rock, that is, in the wounds of the Lord Christ, the true Rock (Song of Sol. 2:14), that our nakedness and uncleanness may not be exposed before God.

How does this concern Christ and His mother? Why did He submit to this law? The Law said, “If a woman conceive,” that is, in the usual and natural manner. But our Lord was conceived by overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. His conception and birth were not sinful and unclean in God’s eyes. Mary conceived and gave birth without sin. The Holy Spirit eliminated sin’s poison from every drop of blood out of which the holy temple of Christ’s body was formed. There-fore He was not subject to hereditary sin and was conceived and born holy (Luke 1:35). Why, then, did He subject Himself to this law?

Answer: As He received Circumcision and Holy Baptism not for His own sake but for ours, so He also submitted to this law for our salvation. He was circumcised and baptized that in Him we may have a remedy against original sin when we, too, are received into God’s covenant of grace by Holy Baptism. He subjected Himself to the law of purification not because any uncleanness was to be found in His Person, for He is the Holy One. But He presented Himself be-fore His heavenly Father as the Lamb of God, on whom the sins of the world were laid, also the sin the Apostle laments in Romans 7 as living in him even after the new birth. In this way He made purification for sins (Heb. 1:3). Christ here assumes the obligation of offering Himself on the Cross as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. By special inspiration of the Holy Spirit the offering consisted not of a lamb but of a pair of turtledoves, not because of extreme poverty but to indicate that the true Lamb of God, of whom all the sacrificial lambs were a picture, had appeared.

The other law to which Christ submitted in this story applies to first-born males only and is recorded in Exodus 13 and repeated in Exodus 22 and 24 as well as in Numbers 8 and 18. When the Lord slew the first-born in Egypt but spared the first-born among the Israelites, He ordained as a memorial that the first-born, man and beast, be given to Him. Animals were to be offered in sacrifice or redeemed with a sum of money. First-born sons were either to be left in the house of God or redeemed with five shekels of silver. Our Lord submitted to this law for three reasons.

1. To indicate that He consecrated Himself for us (John 17:19). This we are to understand as follows: The Lord said that instead of the first-born He has chosen the Levites to be priests and servants (Num. 3:41 ). As the Epistle to the Hebrews makes clear, the whole Levitical priesthood is a picture of Christ. Therefore Christ, as the true High Priest of the New Testament, presented and consecrated Himself for us to His heavenly Father. All the first-born also among the Israelites in Egypt would have been destroyed by the angel if the blood of the sacrificed Passover lamb had not been applied to the doors (Ex. 12:23). Again, all the first-born would have been consecrated and given to the Lord if He had not chosen the Levites in place of the first-born. All this points to Christ, who is the true First-born, the true High Priest of the New Testament, for whose sake we are safe from the hellish destroyer. This First-born presented Himself to the Lord in our stead for eternal service, and therefore the ransom of five shekels of silver was not paid. He was to remain in the Lord’s service and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28).

2. To prove Himself the true First-born, of whom all the first-born in the Old Testament are types. According to His divine nature He is the First-born of His heavenly Father; therefore He is called the First-born of all creatures (Col. 1:18). According to His human nature He is the first-born Son of Mary (Luke 2:7). He is the First-born of the dead (Rev. 1:15), the First Fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20). Therefore all the preeminence given the first-born in olden days is due Him. For in the Old Testament the kingdom and the priesthood belonged to the first-born (Gen. 49:3: “Reuben . . . pre-eminent in pride and pre-eminent in power”). They received a double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21:17). All this is also due Christ, the true First-born. He is our eternal King and High Priest. He is the Heir of all things (Heb. 1:2). Such great honor and glory He does not keep for Himself alone but makes us partakers, in a measure, of His honor and goods, as He has made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father (Rev. 1:6). He makes us children of God and His beloved brothers; therefore He is called the Firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). According to His divine nature He is and remains the First-born from eternity. According to His human nature He has been made the First-born, and all things are put into His hands. This magnificent inheritance He keeps not for Himself. He has a twofold right to the heavenly inheritance. First, He is the first-born Son and natural Heir of God. Secondly, He has earned the inheritance by His holy obedience and merit. Therefore He keeps the one right for Himself and gives the other to us, His faithful, that by faith we become God’s children and His brothers. If we are children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). As the first-born, presented for service to the Lord, were Nazarenes and dedicated to God, so we should be true spiritual Nazarenes and consecrated to God, should present ourselves wholly for service to God, as priests of-fer our spiritual sacrifices of a broken and contrite heart: a tongue that praises God, a heart that loves God and the neighbor, members that serve righteousness. We should live as God’s obedient children, reign as kings over our flesh and blood, abstain from the strong wine and drink of evil lusts that war against the soul, and pray: O Christ, Thou First-born of God and Mary, I surrender fully to Thy service and possession, who hast consecrated Thyself for me to Thy heavenly Father and hast made me a king and priest. Let my poor prayer, the offering of my lips, be pleasing to Thee, and make me a partaker of Thy rich inheritance as Thy poor brother. Amen.

3. To fulfill Haggai’s and Malachi’s prophecies of the great glory that was to come to the second Temple (Hag. 2:10; Mal. 3:1). The Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant were not in this Temple; therefore the true Atonement was to come to it, by whom God has spoken to us. The holy fire was no more; therefore He was to come upon whom the heavenly fire of the Holy Spirit abode in its fullness, who makes our prayer and work pleasing to God, as of old no sacrifice was pleasing to God unless kindled by the holy fire. The Urim and Thummim in the breastplate of the high priest were lost; therefore the true High Priest of the New Testament, of whom all others were a type, was to come to the Temple and bring the “light” of divine knowledge and the “right” of divine teaching. The tablets of the Law were no more; therefore He was to come who is the end of the Law and who by the Spirit writes the Law on the hearts (Jer. 31:33). No prophets appeared during the time of the second Temple; therefore the Great Prophet came, who was promised (Deut. 18:15,18).

II

The second part of the Holy Gospel tells the story of Simeon. The Evangelist reports that when the parents brought their son Jesus into the Temple to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, the pious Simeon came in also. Of him some declare that he was a pupil of the great Rabbi Hillel and the teacher of Gamaliel, mentioned in Acts 5 and 22, as well as a fellow student of Jonathan, who explained the Scriptures in the Chaldaic language. Simeon is described in the text as a righteous and devout man, and it is said of him that he looked for the Consolation of Israel, that is, for the coming of the promised Messiah, the true Noah, or Relief. We are told also that it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he came into the Temple. This is an excellent descrip-tion of a God-pleasing man, one characteristic following from the other. He was righteous and devout, conscientiously obeying the Lord’s commandments of both the First and the Second Table. But this piety and fear of God would not have been pleasing to God if it had not flowed from genuine faith in Christ (Rom. 14:23 and Heb. 11:6). Therefore the Evangelist adds that Simeon looked for the Consolation of Israel, that is, in true faith he embraced the Messiah, the Spring from which he derived all his consolation. Such a faith is not a work of human power but a gift of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we read that the Holy Spirit was upon him, kindled this faith in him, kept alive this hope, and adorned him with special prophetic gifts. Finally, since the Holy Spirit is not inactive in a man but speaks and groans and leads to all that is good, the Evangelist describes Simeon further by stating that, inspired by the Spirit, he came into the Temple. Would to God that we, too, were such Simeons, that we, too, might attain to such a blissful hour and enter into eternal life to see God and Christ face to face!

We read that Simeon took the Child in his arms, blessed God, and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: “Lord, now … Thy people Israel” (vv. 29-32). When Jacob saw his son Joseph again, he exclaimed: “Now let me die, since I have seen your face.” So pious Simeon declares: Because with my eyes I have seen the true and heavenly Joseph, I can and shall now die in peace; for He is the world’s Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel, born for the sake of all men, “for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). In Him only and alone they are to seek all their honor and glory before God.

From this we may see wherein a blessed preparation for death consists:

1. The heart must be lifted up to God through prayer and devotion. “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” Simeon declares. The blessed art of dying can be learned from God alone, as David says in Psalm 39 and Psalm 90. Therefore it must be acquired by prayer. Particularly when death begins to knock at our door, we must withdraw the heart from all created and temporal things, turn to God in prayer, as David testifies: “On the day I called, Thou didst answer me, my strength of soul Thou didst increase” (Ps. 138:3). In such prayer we also find comfort and refreshment, as David says: “My soul thirsts for Thee like a parched land” (Ps. 143:6). Death is God’s messenger; therefore it exhorts us to fly to God, commit our soul into His hands as a trust. He will keep and preserve it.

2. Death must not be regarded as a long way off, but we must expect and provide for this guest daily. Death slinks after us every hour and moment, yes, we carry it in our bosom; therefore we should always be ready. No harm is done by providing for death daily and yet be spared for a time. But there is great harm when death is disregarded for a single day and we are suddenly overtaken. Consider, dear soul, how severely the rich man was punished for putting off death at a great distance (Luke 12:16).

3. The right preparation for death includes that we wait patiently until God Himself summons us. “Lord, now lettest Thou,” etc. Now Thou wilt soon deliver my soul from the prison of this life. We are placed into the line of battle here on earth by God, the heavenly Commander (Job 7:1). Then we dare not wantonly desert, but must wait until He calls us away. He has given us life; into His hands we are to commit how long He wills us to have it, and we are by no means to shorten it.

4. Again, we are always to engage in God’s service. By sins against con-science we render service to the devil (John 8:44); therefore we are to be on our guard against such sins and serve God in holiness and righteousness (Luke 1:75). The man who serves God will be able to rule over death. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth” (Rev. 14:13). If we are to die in the Lord, we must also live in the Lord, that is, serve Him in pious devotion. A short but complete rule for pious living and blissful dying is: Live and act daily as though you should die in this hour, at this moment, and always consider whether you would do this or that if this hour were your last.

5. That we keep a quiet and calm heart. The outward appearance of death is not to frighten us. For it is only a going home for the faithful, who will never see death (John 8: 51). In this life we are captive to the law of sin (Rom. 7:23), but by death we are released from our prison. This word “released” is also used for the freeing to return to the fatherland, to indicate that even though in this life we are strangers and aliens, through death we come to the heavenly home. Again, this word is used of the freeing from slavery. In this life every man has his hard service and duties to perform; through death we come to rest. Finally, it is used of the release from war. In this life we are obliged to fight continually; but through death we are translated from the Church Militant to the Church Victorious, to the assembly of the elect, who have golden crowns on their heads as the sign of victory (Rev. 4:4).

6. To the art of blissful dying belongs especially that by true faith we lay hold on Christ the Prince of Life and Conqueror of death. “Mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation.” We do not see Christ with our physical eyes, as Simeon saw Him, but we do see Him with the eyes of our heart, as Simeon saw Him also. Without this inner, spiritual seeing the outward, physical seeing would have been of little value. The man who sees Christ in this way dies happily, for Christ is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). His Word is the Word of Life (John 6:68). Whoever holds fast to this Word passes from death to life (John 5:24) and in the midst of death finds the true Light, the consolation of the heart, yes, the true Life. For the spiritual life which the faithful have in Christ does not end in natural death. Rather it becomes more abundant. The fearsome monster, greedy death, must deliver the faithful on the shore of eternal life, as the great fish released Jonah on God’s command. This God grant us all through Christ, our Lord.

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