I have always loved the story of the presentation, especially since I entered the ranks of "seniors." Simeon and Anna seem to me to be the icons of old age. They practically lived at the Temple praying for the coming of the Messiah, and they received the grace of seeing Him in the flesh....and holding Him in their arms. How I want to be like them!
But I had a new experience this morning when I looked at the painting above by Gerolamo Romani (1521). The first thing that popped into my head was the "final commendation" sung at funerals:
Receive his soul and present him to God the Most High.How odd....to see a picture of the infant Christ at His presentation and immediately have one's mind go to the end of life and the presentation of the soul to "God the Most High."
Perhaps it isn't so strange because I'd just read this from Archbishop Vigano about the coronavirus:
Catholics know that disease - and therefore epidemics, suffering, and losing a loved one - must be accepted in a spirit of faith and humility, even in atonement for our own personal sins. Thanks to the Communion of Saints - thanks to whom the merits of all the baptized are passed on to everyone else in the Church - we may also bear these trials for the sins of others, for the conversion of those who do not believe, and to shorten the time the Holy Souls have to spend in Purgatory. Something as terrible as covid-19 can also be an opportunity for us to grow in Faith and active Charity.Many Catholics act like the coronavirus is more powerful than our good God. Never has Jesus' question, "When I return will I find faith on the earth?" seemed so agonizingly apt.
As we have seen, if we only consider the clinical side of the disease - which plainly we must do everything we can to fight - completely removes the transcendental side of our lives, thus leaving them without any spiritual outlook and inevitably locking us into blind and hopeless selfishness.
Yes, we need to exercise prudence and do what we can to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus. But to treat every coronavirus death as if it defeats God? No! The moment of death rests in the hands of God. The devil never has the last word. Whether a person has a short life or a long life, his days are numbered by God. Even those who usurp God's right by numbering their own days or those of others can only do so through the permissive will of God. And He promises to "work all things together for good" -- even the coronavirus. Do you believe that?
Instead of wringing our hands in panic, we are invited to trust -- like the Father who came to Jesus begging him to free his son from possession, asking Jesus to help Him -- IF He could. When Jesus challenged that "if," he cried out, "I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief."
That's a prayer for all of us these days.
Lord Jesus, increase my faith in this challenging time, but above all my charity.