- Thursday, 02 February 2017 06:29
A mosaic of Mary and Joseph presenting the child Jesus to Simeon decorates the chapel of the Jesuit infirmary in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring, 2012)
Today’s feast brings to the end the Christmas cycle: 40 days ago we celebrated the Incarnation on Christmas Day. This feast has another name: the Byzantine Church calls it the Encounter of Our Lord. Western Catholics will call it Candlemas.
Why celebrate the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple? What impact does it have for us?
Look to Luke’s Gospel in which we see the honoring of the requirement of the Moasic Law for a mother’s purification forty days after giving birth. She comes to the Temple for prayer and re-incorporation into the community of faith. At this time child birth made the woman unclean to for a period of time. The Church uses the appearance of Joseph and Mary for these rituals to underline the paradox that God, author of the Law, here submits to the Law.
It is important to note that St. Luke records this particular observance of the Law. “The Church uses the appearance of Joseph and Mary for these rituals to underline the paradox that God, author of the Law, here submits to the Law.” Also biblically tied into the Temple visit was the recognition of Israel’s first-born sons who, when Egypt, were killed prior to the Exodus event; hence by tradition parents were bound to present an offering to claim their child.
Luke also reveals to us the prophetic utterance of Simeon and Anna who recognize and encounter the child Jesus as the glory of Israel, the light of revelation for all people. This encounter realizes the revelation of Jesus as the foretold Messiah — a fulfillment of an expectation.
- Monday, 26 December 2016 07:30
The Second Day of Christmas gives us a rather unique liturgical memorial: the death of the first martyr, Saint Stephen. Today’s saint is renown for his singular devotion to the Lord through adoration and service; he believed the unity of truth of the Good News given by Jesus; Stephen is recalled by the Church as being a deacon (see the Acts).
What is revealed to us in sacred Scripture is that Stephen became the first Christian to be killed for his faith in Jesus Christ. A predicted outcome by the Lord. Persecution was received as a consequence to living the intensity life and holiness proposed the Lord Jesus. The Church recognized that persecution as a clear sign that one is on the right path: if you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you will meet the same fate He did. Saint Stephen gave his witness to Jesus and the Truth of the Gospel, but Stephen’s executions didn’t accept his testimony.
The Acts of the Apostles reveals that they “stopped their ears and rushed upon him” (7:57). What does stopped their ears mean? They would not listen to the reasonableness of the Good News. Convicted by truth, Stephen didn’t compromise and thus fulfilled the prophetic utterance that we read about in today’s Gospel. Historically, it was Saul as a young man, full of zeal for something other than holiness; Saul, later Paul, helped the executioners stone Stephen to death. Remarkably, Stephen died praying for his murderers.
Are we convicted by the Truth of the Incarnation? Can we follow and do what Saint Stephen did?
- Sunday, 25 December 2016 10:26
A Christmas sermon by Saint Augustine of Hippo
Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.
Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.
For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.
For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become the son of God?
Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.