Πέμπτη 2 Φεβρουαρίου 2017

The Feast of Candlemas. The Reception of the Lord (‘to go out and welcome Christ’)

Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Icon of The Presentation of Christ written by the hand of Athanasios Clark and used with permission.

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America 

This feast, celebrated on February 2, is known in the Orthodox Church as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Another name for the feast is The Meeting of our Lord. Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians call the feast, The Purification of the Holy Virgin. About 450 AD in Jerusalem, people began the custom of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. Therefore, some churches in the West refer to this holy day as Candlemas. The Feast of the Presentation concludes the observances related to the Nativity of Christ, a period that opened on November 15 with the beginning of the Nativity fast.

Biblical Story 

The story of the Presentation is told in Luke 2:22-29. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and observed their religious customs. An important custom 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 custom 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. 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.
Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God.
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 to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel."
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 Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom.

Orthodox Celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of Christ 2017 in Burundi (from here). About Orthodox Church in Burundi see here.

Icon of the Feast

The Holy Icon shows that the meeting takes place inside the Temple and in front of the altar. The altar has a book or a scroll on it and is covered by a canopy. The Theotokos stands to the left and is holding out her hands in a gesture of offering. The one hand of the Theotokos is covered by her cloak or as it is known, the maphorion. She has just handed her Son to Simeon.
Christ is shown as a child, but He is not in swaddling clothes. He is clothed in a small dress and his legs are bare. Jesus appears to be giving a blessing. Simeon holds Jesus with both hands which are covered. This shows the reverence Simeon had for the Messiah. Simeon is bare headed and there is nothing to show that he is a priest. Some biblical scholars say that Simeon was probably a priest of the Temple or a Doctor of the Law.

Joseph is behind the Theotokos. He is carrying the two turtle doves for the sacrifice. Anna the Prophetess is also standing behind the Theotokos and is pointing to the Christ child. The words Simeon spoke when he saw the Christ Child are known as "St. Simeon's Prayer." This prayer is sung 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 Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple.

Orthodox Celebration of the Feast of the Presentation

This Feast of our Lord is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is conducted on the day of the Feast and preceded by the Matins service. A Great Vespers is conducted on the evening before the day of the Feast. 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 Matins – Luke 2:25-32; at the Divine Liturgy – Hebrews 7:7-17 and Luke 2:22-40.

From Burundi.

Hymns of the Feast 

Apolytikion (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 (First Tone)
Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved 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.


The Story of the Icons by Dr. Mary Paloumpis Hallick.
The Festal Menaion translated by Mother Mary (South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1969) p. 60.

The Incarnate God: The Feasts of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, Cathering Aslanoff, editor and Paul Meyendorff, translator (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995).

Festival Icons for the Christian Year by John Baggley (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2000), pp. 40-47.

The Feast of Candlemas. The Reception of the Lord.


Already we’re in the second month of the New Year. And we begin with the feast of the Reception of Christ, on February 2. It’s a very great feast. Christ is received by a man for whom the expectation of this moment governed his life. He awaited Him and then received Him. Do we await him, though? Is our life an expectation of the coming of Christ? Symeon waited expectantly for Christ Who was the content and beauty of his life. We alas, have shifted the focus of our lives elsewhere. We have different priorities.
How does someone ‘receive’ Christ? [The name of the feast in Greek means ‘to go out and welcome someone’] What are the necessary conditions for a meeting with Him? What do we expect from Him?
First of all, our lives today are confused and we don’t await Christ. We’re waiting for other things. Our criteria are all mixed up. So are our aims. So are our wishes. Christ is an object of special interest only to the old and the naïve.
We, who are sharp as tacks and have our feet firmly on the ground, as we like to think of ourselves, haven’t got the time to deal with this sort of thing. If we’re not looking for monetary gain, we’re out seeking enjoyment of every kind. If we’re not in the fast lane, we want a holiday. If we’re not concerned with whatever’s buzzing around our brain, we’re reading the newspaper ‘pundits’ who provide an answer to everything: important and fatuous; serious and laughable; interesting and dull. And, the most important thing, who inform us of recent research which has taken place and which ‘proves’ that Christ doesn’t exist. And so, since we now have ‘valid’ facts at our disposal, we’re well-informed and ‘in the know’. What relationship should we be pursuing? How should we be celebrating? More importantly, who should we be celebrating?
Let’s dwell on ourselves for a moment. Let’s sieve our conscience and our heart. Let’s think: ‘The way I’m going, is my life really getting any better? Has it acquired a central meaning? Joy, serenity, calm? I’ve expelled Christ and the Church from my life, but has that made it any the more beautiful? Maybe it’s a wilderness. Maybe it’s filled with wickedness? Maybe my relationships have become problematic? Maybe my soul’s in turmoil?’

Icon from here.

The feast of the Reception brings all these questions to the surface. They need to be answered! And forcefully. Sincerely. Recognition may provide a diagnosis, but not a cure. The cure demands decisiveness and hard work.
Even if the feast is strange to us, let’s make it an opportunity for Christ not to continue to be a stranger to us.
The reception of Christ means: a sincere quest for Him; a methodical search (You don’t go to a desert to catch fish!); a helper in the endeavor (spiritual guide); and adherence to the course of treatment we’re given.
When all this occurs, our heart begins to be illumined by the light of Christ. Then everything will become the Light of Christ. Then the prospect of His Reception will be the joy of our lives. Then His face will become that of the person we love the best. Then every sacrifice for Him Whom we love will not be an effort, but a joy. Then the Sunday Eucharist won’t be a duty, but a self-evident expression of life.
Let’s ponder these things. They’re an opportunity for reflection. Let’s expand them both in terms of depth and breadth. Christ, life and death are the only issue which require an answer, a wise man said in the last [20th] century.
I pray that all of us may ‘go out and meet Christ’.

Fr. Theodosios

See also

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