The Presentation of the Lord: A Symbol of the Messiah’s Embrace

Pope Francis says Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in St. Peter's Basilica, Feb. 2, 2022. | Credit: Vatican Media

Every Feb. 2, the universal Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Mary and Joseph bring the newborn Jesus to the Temple, the holy place, the house of God. The presentation of the firstborn son is equivalent to his “consecration” — it is an act of thanksgiving for the gift received from the hands of the Creator, the source of life.

In the Temple, the Holy Family — Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — meet two elderly people, faithful keepers of God’s law: Simeon and Anna. That simple event contains a profound Christian symbolism: It is the embrace of the Lord of his people, who await the Messiah. That is why the liturgy sings: “You, Lord, are the light that enlightens the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Acclamation before the Gospel, Lk 2:32).

The Law of Moses

On this day, simultaneously, we remember the ritual purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary after she gave birth to the Savior: “When the time for Mary’s purification according to the Law of Moses had passed, she and Joseph brought the child to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, according to what is written in the law, ‘Every firstborn male child shall be consecrated to the Lord,’ and also to offer, as the law says, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons” (Lk 2:22-24).

According to the ancient custom of the people of Israel, 40 days after the birth of a firstborn child, he was to be brought to the Temple for his presentation. For this reason, the Church counts 40 days after Christmas Day (Dec. 25) to the feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Feb. 2.


The prophecies of Simeon and Anna

Arriving at the Temple, the parents of Jesus with the child in their arms meet Simeon, the man whom the Holy Spirit promised would not die before seeing the Savior of the world. It was the same Spirit who put in the mouth of this prophet that this little child would be the Redeemer and Savior of mankind: 

“This child is destined to bring about the fall of many in Israel, and also the rise of many others. He was sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will come to light, and a sword will pierce your own soul” (Lk 2: 34-35, from the Canticle of Simeon, Lk 2:22-40, known as “Nunc Dimittis” because of the Latin words with which it begins: “Now you leave”).

“Also that day there was in the Temple the daughter of Phanuel, of the Tribe of Asher, named Anna. She was a woman of very advanced age; she had been widowed only seven years after her marriage and remained so until she was 84 years old. Anna walked day and night in the Temple, worshipping God, offering fasting and prayers. When she saw the child, she recognized him and began to proclaim to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem that salvation had come” (Lk 2:36-38).

This story is from ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, and has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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