Monday, February 02, 2009

Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Anna, a New Testament Image of Contemplative Life

Presentation of Jesus - Fresco by Giotto

Today began with the blessing of all the candles will will use during this year. This used to be called Candlemas Day. It couldn't be more convenient because tomorrow is the Feast of St. Blaise with its traditional blessing of throats. Coming in the dead of winter as it does, this blessing seems a great idea. So far we have been very fortunate in not having some awful cold or flu bug invade our community.

For those who pray Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours the prayer of thanksgiving uttered by Simeon is embedded in our psyches. "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared insight of all the peoples, a a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."

But that is only half of the story because another figure lingers in the temple, waiting in constant prayer. This is Anna, well portrayed in Giotto's fresco; not half-hidden in the background but fully formed and present, bearing the scroll of God's promise to the people of Israel. "She never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Israel." Happily, Fr. Ronald Bonneau, CSsR, the celebrant of our Mass this morning, chose to read the long form of the Gospel which includes the bit about Anna. She is a model for the life of unceasing prayer; the life of witnessing by virtue of presence and her very being to the Redemption brought by the person of Jesus; the life of any contemplative nun or monk.

Fr. Bonneau inspired us further by reminding us that Jesus was brought to the temple in the totally ordinary fashion of his time, culture and religion. He was revealed in the ordinary. Jesus was recognized in the ordinary by both Simeon and Anna. We too will find Jesus in the ordinary if we only take the time to look, to be present, to be available. To what? Whatever, or whoever, comes across our path. And where? Anywhere - family, home work, club, soccer field, church, garden, etc. but also in the agonies of our time, of our world. Trick is to be present and accounted for like Simeon and Anna.

May the candles blessed today be light for the way, piercing the darkness that limits our vision.

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