quod pro nobis traditum est

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

According to Your Word - Presentation and Purification

In the Eastern and Western Churches today, Nov. 21, is the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast is based on the Protoevangelium of James and other apocryphal writings which say that at the age of three Mary was presented to the Lord by her parents in the Temple at Jerusalem. The recognition of this day originated in the East and was later adopted in the Western Church.

Since the visit to the Temple is apocryphal this feast day did not continue among the churches of the Augsburg Confession (that I am aware of). However, this day does lead us to consider the approaching feast on Feb. 2 at which the churches celebrate The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord.

Jumping ahead to the feast in February we are reminded of the liturgical inheritance that the Church has received upon receiving the very Body and Blood of Christ at the altar. The Church sings the words of the just and devout Simeon in the Temple when he took the baby Jesus up in his arms and blessed God saying:

"Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For 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 of Your people Israel."
(Luke 2:29-32)

So too we remember Mary's words at the announcement of Jesus' birth by the Angel Gabriel, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

"According to Your word" - these words of Simeon and of the Blessed* Virgin Mary are the Church's in her own humble self-presentation at the altar to receive purification in the Body and Blood of Mary's Son, just as He Himself instituted for His Bride the Church for the forgiveness of sins.

*(Luke 1:28,42,45,48)

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