Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-40

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Magdalen Lawler

Published: February 02, 2015

Read Luke 2:22-40

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the... Read More…


In this story of Simeon and Anna, the scenes which describe the birth of Jesus move significantly from the caves and the open countryside of the shepherds, and from the desert and stars of the Magi to the Temple of Jerusalem itself. The Temple of God, in the person of the child, is carried into the Temple made by human hands. The child and his parents meet ancient figures in the Sanctuary of God while they are engaged in a ritual which helps to fix the identity of Mary’s son as a child of Israel. It was the proud boast of Israel that the Presence of God dwelt in the Sanctuary. Now, the Presence itself, recognised by Simeon, has entered its rightful dwelling place. The promise of glory, made by the Angel to the shepherds is fulfilled. The Shekinah, or Glory/Presence of God, which accompanied the Ark of God in the desert, has come to rest in the arms of an old man and is gazed upon by an elderly woman.

This winter, 2014, the beautiful painting by Rembrandt: Simeon and the Child Jesus was loaned by Stockholm’s National Gallery to the National Gallery, London. It is one of the artist’s final works and it gave me great joy to see it. In the final painting on display, Simeon holds in his arms the child, the light of the world, from whom light emanates. The painting sets aglow the faces of Simeon and Anna as they contemplate this tiny Infant. Anna peers over the old man’s shoulder. (Some believe this is Mary, but others think she is too old to be the mother of the child.) The tiny Infant is poised delicately on Simeon’s hands, resting on the book of the Torah, calling to mind the fulfilment of biblical promises. Light suffuses the face of Simeon and glances off the features of Anna as they absorb the luminosity of the Light to the Nations. The painting gives us an idea of the effect of the Light of Christ on our darkened world today. It is a tribute to the fidelity of old age and its wisdom.

Look towards the Light
Focus on the wonder of Light in its various manifestations: dawn touching the edges of the horizon; the blaze of light in the sun; the subtlety of a candle flame; the prism which refracts pure light; Christ, the light who has come into the world.
Sit in the light of God’s love, allowing that warmth to penetrate your spirit as the rays of the sun penetrate your body. Raise your face to that glorious radiance and ask for the ability to see as Julie and Simeon saw; with inner vision.

Age and Ageing are not welcome themes in western society. Aged people are often at the bottom of the heap when it comes to being accorded status. Simeon and Anna are the embodiment of the lowliness of the Anawim. They have this in common with Mary and Joseph. Their humble status and their extreme age gave them a prophetic insight.

St. Julie Billiart shared this same insight. Like Anna, her life was eloquent, though often humble and quiet. She saw the light of Christ as a candle flame that her Sisters and their associates and friends would carry to distant lands, kindling a flame of faith and hope for our world, even to our time. We light our candles today from her guiding inspiration and we rely on new lights from distant wisdom that teach us how to see beyond the obvious, to the realms that Julie and Anna saw.

Look towards the Light
Watch these two women together; one of great age and the other a disabled woman of extraordinary vision. What do they have in common? Look at their gestures and listen to the words they share. Ask them to be our guiding lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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