Monday, February 2, 2015

Lifting the Lantern as we commence on our journey


Simeon took Him into his arms and blessed God, and said, "Now, Lord, release your servant in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all people.  A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people, Israel.  Luke 2 :28-32

THE Feast of Presentation is the last flickering light of the glorious Christmas season.  From here we will run the course with our Lord.  We will once again join Him on the mountain top to watch as the torch is passed from Moses and Elijah to the One who is the fulfillment of all they did and said.  We will hear the Majestic Voice confirm what was said at the Lord's baptism:  This is my beloved Son!  This is the One in whom I am well pleased!  Hear all that He has to say, and believe it with all your strength, for His words are life and light in the midst of darkness and death.

We will then follow our Lord down from the mountain, but unlike Peter, James and John, we won't try to dissuade Him from the cross; not because we are brighter than they, but because we have the benefit of knowing the whole story, so we will slowly but steadily begin our journey to Calvary with Him.

Though men could join the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration, no one may ascend the Lord's mountain where He reigns as King Supreme from the cross.  Only the spotless Lamb of God could go there because only He was anointed by God and only his blood was sufficient sacrifice to delete the sins of the world; but no man needs to go there except as as awe-struck believer, and as a reverent worshiper, because the Lord accomplished full redemption for you there.  The perfect Son of God provided all that your soul will ever need, ever want, ever long for: pardon for every crime, peace for every conscience, contentment for restless hearts and relief from the devil and the fear of death.

Yet, for now we enjoy the fading embers on this feast that is also called Candlemas.  In earlier days it was a festival of light where the worshipers carried candles to the Mass in order to symbolize that Jesus is what Simeon declares the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel.  We are those people...Gentiles made the Israel of God, the sons of Abraham by faith that is grounded in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now we know that not all the events of our Lord's life are written down.  St John informs us in the last chapter of his gospel that not even the whole world could contain all the books if they were!  Ah, but this one is, and it is there for a reason!  God wants all men to know about the Presentation and to learn the things that it teaches.  What does it teach?  It teaches us how we should respond to the miracle that Simeon held in his arms that day, for Scripture is not just a book of theological facts, indispensable as they are, but it is also a liturgical book; a book to be used in the church, by the church and for the church; a book that instructs us how to pray, praise and give thanks for the Son here given; a book that puts the words in our mouths, the Spirit's words which are the right words and the best words for us to pray.  Taking Simeon's example we bless God following the holy communion, praying his exact words, the liturgical hymn that we call the Nunc Dimittis.

However, Simeon is not our only teacher today.  He completes the circle.  He sends the "thank you note" back to heaven for heaven's gift received.  He acknowledges on behalf of all believers that our eyes have indeed seen, and that our hearts indeed believe the Consolation of Israel which our God now provides before our eyes, and in the sight of all people.

As the embers of Christmas joy fade, let us one more time recall the lessons we learned from men and women, both young and old:  The Virgin becomes a mother.  The barren one gives birth.  The dumb man speaks.  Elizabeth prophecies.  The Magi adore.  A babe still hidden in his mother's womb leaps for joy.  An 84-year-old widow breaks out in praise...and now this righteous man, Simeon, sees the "long-expected Jesus" come to His holy temple, and a righteous man he is;  righteous and devout because he believed the word of God that he heard; because he begs grace not for himself, but for all people, for Jew and Gentile alike; because he prefers, like St. Paul, to be with Christ which is far better' and because this aged man will not yield to death without first holding the Child in his arms, even as the Child holds the old man in His own outstretched and loving arms forever.

Today, by virtue of our baptism, we too are just and devout men and women, boys and girls, who expectantly await the final consolation of Israel to appear.  Justified not by our own efforts, or because of any good quality within, for that is impossible, but rather by trust in the Child who is destined for resurrection of all who believe, and for the fall of those who refuse.

That is why we are congregated to celebrate these two great feasts of Presentation and the Candle Mass today, not because we are light, but because we need light, and this is the place we obtain it!  The Light of God's mighty Word which mother church here distributes to her children.  Like Simeon, we embrace it!  We hold it near and dear.  We humbly kneel to receive it on our tongues because it is sweeter than honey, and we treasure it in our inmost being because it is more precious than gold.  Now, having received such rich blessing, let us, like Simeon, depart in peace, and devote our days to glorifying the Father of Lights, the Presenter of Christmas Gifts, by our thoughts, our words and our deeds.  Amen

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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