Today we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, a feast that only happens on a Sunday once every decade, so it’s worth paying attention to.
There are four feasts relating to the birth of Jesus. The first, of course, is Christmas. Then there is the Feast of the Holy Name on January 1, eight days after Christmas, when Jesus was named by his parents and circumcised according to Jewish tradition. On January 6 we have Epiphany, when the wise men arrived to worship Jesus.
Then we have today, the Presentation, also known as Candlemas because on this day priests used to bless candles for people to burn in their homes throughout the year.
If anyone wants me to bless your iPhone flashlight, just let me know.
The Presentation is always celebrated on February 2, exactly forty days after Christmas, because this is when Mary and Joseph were prescribed by the law of Moses to present their firstborn child in the temple and offer a sacrifice. This was also Mary’s opportunity to be purified after childbirth.
It’s worth noting that of the sacrifices Mary and Joseph could have offered in the temple, they offer a pair of turtledoves and two young pigeons. That’s specifically the sacrifice that’s written in the law of Moses for poor people to offer.
It’s the only concrete evidence we have of Jesus’ economic status as a child, and it’s a powerful characterization of Mary and Joseph.
It tells us that they only had the money to offer the most humble form of sacrifice, but that even given how poor they were, they prioritized making the journey to the Jerusalem temple because it mattered that much to them to observe the rites of their religion.
We call this the Feast of the Presentation, and we use our white vestments and white paraments.
We usually think of feasts as joyful times.
But as one of the members of my sermon group pointed out this week, this story is full of beautiful sadness.
It’s a complex mix of endings and beginnings and love and sacrifice.
And one thing we see above all else is that the experience of the presence of God is to be so cherished and relished because it can feel so very brief. Continue reading