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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Feast of the Presentation: A Celebration of the Elderly

If there were a feast day for old folks, I'd say it's today, the feast of the Presentation. Who do we find at the temple praying and waiting for the Messiah? Two elderly Jews who go to the temple night and day.

The Holy Spirit promised the old man Simeon that he would not die without seeing the salvation of Israel. And when Mary and Joseph bring the child in fulfillment of the law, Simeon is there, called by the Holy Spirit, and he takes the child in his arms and says to Mary, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted -- and you yourself a sword will pierce -- so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."

Anna, the elderly widow, is also there to rejoice over the babe. Both Simeon and Anna are described as prophets. In fact with John the Baptist, they are the last prophets of the Old Testament. They form a sort of bridge between the old and the new as they metaphorically see Christ's star at its rising as their own stars are setting.

I've always been intrigued by the Presentation because it is an image of both joy and sorrow. It is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, but it is also the first of Mary's seven sorrows. Strange to call the same event both a joy and a sorrow?

A contradiction? I don't think so.

That seems to me to be a description of life with its mixture of both joy and sorrow, some events encompassing both. Think of Saint Gianna Molla who gave up her own life for the life of her baby, the sacrificial death of the mother but to illustrate such great love for her child! Sorrow and joy.

Think of a funeral where family members may be reunited after years of not seeing one another where they share joyful memories as they experience their shared loss. There is no sorrow seen through the eyes of God that does not contain a seed of joy. It may be impossible to see in this life. How, after all, can one see joy in the holocaust, for example, or other situations of martyrdom, but then one sees a Maximilian Kolbe or a Corrie Ten Boom or Edmund Campion or a St. Isaac Jogues and one knows that even loss is gain.

I love Simeon and Anna. They remind me that as the stars set, the dawn is near. And no matter how dark the night, the sun will rise again.

St. Anna and St. Simeon, pray for us.

N.B. I love the picture. Can anyone identify the artist?

1 comment:

Dymphna said...

What a lovely idea.