Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ. ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
[Saint Ephraim the Syrian]
"Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven."
THE HOLY FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD IN THE TEMPLE
Hymns of the Feast
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone.
Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in Your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.
Kontakion Hymn. First Tone
Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Simeon. Having now come and save us O Christ Our God, give peace to your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whom you love, as only the Loving One.
"Adorn thy chamber, O Zion, and receive Christ the King. Welcome Mary the heavenly gate; for she hath appeared as a cherubic throne, she carrieth the King of Glory. Verily, the Virgin is a cloud of light carrying in her body the Son Who is before the morning star, Whom Simeon carrying in his arms proclaimed to the nations as the Lord of life and death, and the Savior of our souls." [Vespers of the Feast. Tone 7]
This holy Feast, celebrated on February 2nd, is known in the Orthodox Church as the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Another name for the feast is The Meeting (Ypapante lit. 'Meeting' in Greek) of our Lord. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians call the feast, The Purification of the Holy Virgin. About 450 A.D. in Jerusalem, Christians began the tradition of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. The Feast of the Presentation concludes the observances related to the Holy Nativity of Christ, a period that opened on November 15th with the beginning of the Nativity fast.
The story of the Presentation is told in the gospel of Saint Luke 2:22-29. The Ever-Virgin Mary and Joseph her betrothed were faithful Jews and observed their religious Hebrew traditions. An important tradition was for the couple to take their first-born son to the Temple. The baby was taken to the Temple forty days after his birth and was dedicated to God. In addition, if the parents were wealthy, they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The tradition provided that if the parents were poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice.
When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy, so they took two turtle doves with them to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple. As they arrived at the Temple, Mary and Joseph were met by a very old man named Simeon. He was a holy man and was noted as a very intelligent scholar. Simeon spent much time studying about the prophets of Israel. It was during his studies that he learned of the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to come and deliver Israel from their conquerors (Romans). From that time on, Simeon spent his time praying for the Messiah to come. He spent many years in prayer. Finally, while Simeon was praying he heard the voice of God. God promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.
When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the baby in his arms and blessed the Lord and said:
"Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a Light to bring revelation t the Gentiles, and the glory to Your people Israel."
The words Simeon spoke when he saw the Christ Child are known as "Saint Simeon's Prayer." This prayer is chanted daily at the evening Vespers services of the Orthodox Church.
In the Orthodox Church, both baby boys and baby girls are taken to the Church on the fortieth day after their birth. This is done in remembrance of the Theotokos and Saint Joseph taking the Infant Jesus to the Temple.
Also, in the Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for many years. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in the Temple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw The Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah.
After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee to the town of Nazareth. The Holy Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom.
The Holy Feast of Our Lord is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostomos, which is conducted on the day of the Feast and preceded by the Orthros (Matins) holy service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. Holy Scripture readings for the Feast are the following: at Great Vespers--extracts from Exodus 12:15-13:16; Leviticus 12 and Numbers 8; Isaiah 6:1-12, and 19:1, 3-5,12,16,19-21; at Orthros--St. Luke 2:25-32; at the Divine Liturgy--Hebrews 7:7-17 and St. Luke 2:22-40.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
A STORY FROM HOLY ORTHODOX TRADITION
by Fr. Michael J. Buben
According to the witness of Holy Scripture, the old Simeon was a man "just and devout, waiting of the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (St. Luke 2:25). From God, Simeon had been foretold about the coming of the True Messiah. Ancient historians teach us the following about Saint Simeon.
The great and divinely inspired work for translating the Old Testament Books from the Hebrew to the Greek language was begun by Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt (Seventy-two [sometimes referred to as 70) Hebrew elders from the Twelve Tribes of Israel were selected for the work of translation. Each Hebrew Elder was a teacher of Mosaic Law, a Scriptural Scholar, and proficient in both Greek and Hebrew languages. These divinely inspired men brought forth the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. Among these scholars who translated the Books of the Old Testament into Greek on the island of Pharos, near the city of Alexandria was the Elder Simeon.
While translating the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Simeon came to the words: "Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son" (Isaiah 7:14). Reading them, he became confused, thinking that it was impossible for a Virgin without husband to give birth. Simeon took a knife and was ready to erase the word--Virgin--and substitute the word--wife. At this time an Angel of God appeared, held Simeon's hand and said:
"Have faith in the written word, and you yourself will see its fulfillment. You will not die until you yourself see the One Who is to be born of a pure Virgin--the Lord Christ."
With a strong belief in the prophetical words of the Angel, Simeon impatiently waited the coming to earth of the Anointed One. For many, many years he led a righteous and immaculate life, avoiding all temptations and evil. Daily he prayed at the Temple that God would grant peace and mercy on His earth and save mankind from the all-vain Devil. His eyes gazed upon many infants who were brought to the Temple Forty Days after birth according to the Law of Moses (Exodos 13:2). With all the infirmities of old age, and perhaps even a wish for release, Simeon continued to believe, and hope, and pray.
After the presentation of Christ in the Temple and his exclamation, he foretold the Passion of Christ, the Crucifixion, and the sorrow of the Theotokos seeing her Son on the Cross. (St. Luke 2: 34-35). He soon fell asleep in the Lord at an age likened to the patriarchs of the first biblical era. God had willed that he should live to the moment for many ages--the birth of the Ageless Son from a Virgin to Whom be Glory forever. Amen.
The feast of the Meeting of Christ is not simply a feast referring only to Christ the Lord and pointing to one of the stages of the divine Economy, but it is also a feast of the person who lives by Christ.
According to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, we must offer to God, to the Altar Above, in place of a pair of turtle-doves, the purity of soul and body, and in place of the two young pigeons we must offer much prayer not only before the face of God, but also before the face of mankind. And just as Christ did all that the Law required and returned to His fatherland, filled and advancing in wisdom, so we too are to return to our true fatherland, which is the Heavenly Jerusalem, because we are to live spiritually according to divine Law and advance in wisdom and joy and reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, perfected in the inner man and having become dwellings of the Holy Spirit.
According to Saint Athanasios the Great, it is our task to liken ourselves to Righteous Symeon and the Prophetess Anna. We too must meet Christ with wisdom, purity, guilelessness, forgiveness and in general with love for God and mankind. No one can meet Christ, the true life, in any other way.
The meeting of Christ shows that Christ is the life and light of men and that man should aim to attain this personal light and personal life. The Church sings, by way of exhortation, "Illuminate my soul and the light of my senses, that I may see Thee in purity; and I will proclaim that Thou art God". In order for anyone to proclaim God, he must see Him clearly. Only those who see God or at least accept the experience of those who see, can become teachers. But in order to see God one must previously be illuminated, shine in soul and bodily senses. Then the feast of the meeting of Christ also becomes a feast of the meeting of every believer.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God