Malankara World Journal Mayaltho - Presentation of Christ at The Temple
Volume 5 No. 262 January 30, 2015
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I. This Sunday in Church (Kohne Sunday)
II. Ma'altho (Presentation of Christ in Temple) - February 2
Jesus is the Light of the world for all. The light shines in the darkness--of Afghanistan, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem and the whole area we call the Holy Land, and where all of us are gathered at this very moment. The Light shines in the face of inhumanity to others. Homelessness and hunger and not enough money. The Light shines when the heroism of the bravest who protect us brings them harm. Into the darkness we have created with our own hands comes God's answer. The answer of love. Just a little bit of light can make a great deal of difference. It could be the reassuring light at the other end of the tunnel for someone. We need to light up the lives of others with love and joy and decency. ...
III. Regular Features
by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World
If you were following the church calendar and lectionary readings in Malankara World, we were at the stage when Jesus has started assembling his team and has started his public ministry. Last week, we read about the quarrel between the disciples of John the Baptist and Jesus about baptizing people and John's famous statement, "He must increase; I must decrease." This Sunday, it appears that we are back to the Christmas Season with the celebration of Mayaltho, the Presentation of Jesus at the temple - the last of the so-called infant narratives in the Gospel of St. Luke. What is going on?The reason for this intermingling of events is due to our church following a calendar where some events "float" during the year and some are date-fixed in Calendar. The Christmas, Murder of Innocents, Baptism (Denaha) and Mayaltho are date fixed. Since Jesus was presented in Temple exactly 40 days after His birth, Mayaltho falls on February 2, exactly 40 days after Christmas, December 25. The date of Easter varies every year. Based on the date of Easter, the Beginning of Great Lent, and the Beginning of Nineveh Lent, Ascension and Pentecost changes every year. This year Easter comes a bit early; so we have finished the Nineveh Lent already. The first Sunday after Nineveh Lent is celebrated in memory of the departed clergy (called Kohne Sunday) and falls on the coming Sunday (Feb 1). On the second Sunday after the Nineveh Lent (this year on Feb 8), we remember all departed faithful (Aneede Sunday). This year Mayaltho (Feb 2) falls between Kohne Sunday and Aneede Sunday. Mayaltho is an important feast for our church and is one of the "moronoyo feasts." This means that it is obligatory to have Holy Qurbono celebrated on Mayaltho day and the faithful is required to attend the service. If you fail to attend the service on Mayaltho, you have to confess it as a transgression to the priest and get absolution before accepting holy qurbano. We have several articles that goes into the importance of Mayaltho in today's Journal. This is supplemented by other articles in past Journals archived as well as in the collection of Sermons in Malankara World. In two weeks (Feb 16), we will be beginning our Great Lent that leads us to the Passion week. So, what is so special about Mayaltho? According to Jewish custom, 40 days after a child is born is very special especially if it is a firstborn son, which Jesus was. For one thing, after the birth of any child, at the end of 40 days, the mother would be able to come back to the temple. This ceremony was called the "purification" of the mother. But when the child that was born was a firstborn son, more was involved on this visit to the temple in Jerusalem. The origins go back centuries earlier to the time when Israel came out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus. We read from the bible that what compelled Pharaoh to let the people go was the final plague, the death of the firstborn on Passover. All throughout Egypt, in every home, the firstborn son was going to die. But the Israelite homes were spared, they were passed over. Their firstborn sons lived. To always remember that their lives were spared, every firstborn son from then on was to be dedicated to the Lord, set apart for his service, even if only ceremonially. So, on February 2, Joseph and Mary took their first-born son to the temple for the purification rites for the mother and for the dedication of the son. Mayatho celebrates this event. In the temple, we encounter two unusual persons, Simeon and Anna, who were informed by the Holy Spirit ahead of time that they will meet the Messiah in person. This also provided the backdrop for the unveiling of Simeon's song, the Nunc Dimittis. Only St. Luke goes into details on the events surrounding the birth of Christ, known as "Infancy Narrative," found in Luke chapters 1 and 2. What are specially alluring in these infancy narratives are the four canticles found in Luke 1-2, those poetic, psalm-like pieces included there. These are: 1. Mary's song, the Magnificat;
2. Zechariah's song, the Benedictus;
3. The song of the Christmas angels, the Gloria in Excelsis. These were covered in early issues of Malankara World Journal. The fourth canticle, Simeon's song, the Nunc Dimittis, is found within the Gospel reading for Mayaltho (Luke 2:29-32). It's what the aged Simeon says when he finally sees the fulfillment of what he's been hoping for, after waiting for him all these years, when he holds the Christ child in his arms. (Close your eyes, imagine that you are Simeon, suddenly seeing someone you waited all your life to see, appearing just in front of you in the form of a baby. The Holy Spirit has already alerted you that this is the messiah promised by God. Imagine the joy felt by Simeon.) Now let us take a look at what Simeon said:
For my eyes have seen your salvation,Gary C. Burger, Mdiv. in his commentary on Luke 2:21-40 described it this way: "God has now put this agent of salvation onto the public stage of humanity. The process of securing salvation for people is not to be done in a smoke-filled backroom up in heaven. It will take place for all to witness, for all to scrutinize and for all to have the chance to either reject it or receive it.
a light for revelation to the GentilesSimeon's theme is God's salvation for all people. According to a Jewish worldview there were and still are two categories of humanity: Jews and Gentiles. Jesus would not just be the instrument of salvation for the people of Israel but for all people, including the Gentiles. When God made His covenant with Abraham 2000 years before this He told Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through his descendants. By this time, however, many Jews hated the Gentiles so much that they ignored this or thought in terms of a Jewish government that would rule over the Gentiles with an iron fist. Simeon, however, is not talking about oppressive rule but salvation." When we look at the history of celebrating the Mayaltho Feast , we find that in the seventh century it had become the custom to begin the worship service of Mayaltho on February 2 with candle-lighting by the congregation gathered outside the worship area followed by a procession into the Church with all carrying their lighted candles. This was to relive Simeon's experience of meeting the "light of nations" at the temple. "Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who came to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ." - Rev. J. Thomas Shelley The festival day's position at midwinter - exactly midway between the winter solstice (December 21 or 22) each year in the Northern Hemisphere and the spring equinox (March 20) the day when daylight lasts for exactly 12 hours further adds to the connection between Mayaltho and the light. The daylight increases from the day of Mayaltho. So, there is a very close relationship between Mayaltho and Light. Jesus, during His ministry, described Himself as "I am the Light." Light destroys darkness or evil. Simeon reminds everyone of Isaiah's prophecy as described in Isaiah (60:1-3) where the imagery of illumination was used to describe the Messiah:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,Psalm 27:1 also uses light as a metaphor for salvation:
The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?In Luke 2:32, Simeon calls Jesus: "a light for revelation to the Gentiles." God is now revealing His plan and offer of salvation to the Gentiles. At the same time, however, God's justice and judgment will fall on those who reject His salvation. Light is also used by Isaiah to refer to God's judgment on the Gentile nations that oppress Israel. As the great hymn-writer Charles Wesley has declared:
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,The most poignant part of Simeon's discourse/canticle was his prediction of what awaits the mother of the child, Mary:
"And a sword will pierce your own soul too.""Simeon's prophecy brought tragic news that would simmer in the back of Mary's mind for years to come, both wondering and dreading how they would be fulfilled. These words must have come back to haunt her many times as Jesus was growing up and then during His public ministry when the Jewish leaders opposed Him and then especially when He was arrested and crucified." Later Jesus would remind everyone that if we want to be His disciple, we should be willing to take up the cross and follow him. Persecution is part of that journey. The Kingdom of God is not of this world but we only taste it after our death. But we will discover during the passion week that Jesus has overcome the world and the death. He paid for our sins so that we can inherit the everlasting life and become children of God. He has purchased us with His blood. He indeed paid a premium price for all of us. What a way to officially end the Christmas Season!! Prayer: All-powerful Father,
Christ Your Son became man for us
and was presented in the temple.
May he free our hearts from sin
and bring us into your presence. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
This Sunday in Church (Kohne Sunday)
|Malankara World Journal Special - Issue 122, January 24, 2013|
From In Sinu Iesu, The Journal of A Priest by Fr. MarkLeave aside the things
that distract you from Me.
I am the One Thing Necessary to you
in this life.
Save your eyes, your ears,
your mouth, your hands, and your heart,
your whole being for Me,
and I will unite you to Myself. Close your eyes to vanities,
and your ears to flattery and deceit.
Open your mouth to praise Me,
to sing My glory, to speak of Me,
and to speak good things to your neighbour. Keep yourself for Me
as I keep Myself for you
in the Sacrament of My Love.
Know that I wait for you.
There is a consolation
that only you can give Me.
It is your friendship that My Heart desires
and this friendship of yours cannot be replaced by any other.
You are Mine and I am yours. Abide in Me and I will abide in you,
speaking through you,
and touching souls through your words.
Allow Me to be the physician of souls and bodies through you.
I want to live in you and pursue on earth
all of those things that I did out of love and compassion
when I walked among men in My flesh.
You are My flesh now,
and you are my presence in the world.
It is through you that I make myself visible to men.
It is through you that I will speak to them,
and comfort them, and heal them,
and draw them to My Father in the Holy Spirit. There is nothing that I will not do for souls through My priests.
Let them be visible and present in the world that needs them
and, without knowing it, seeks them
and waits for a word from them:
a word of life, a word of hope,
a word of compassion, a word of forgiveness.
Let my priests be visible,
not in order to make themselves seen and admired by men,
but in order to make Me seen, and known, and loved
in them and through them. The world is looking for fathers,
and in My priests I have given souls the fathers whom they need.
There are false fathers who would abuse souls
and lead them along,
and exercise seduction and power over them.
These are not the fathers whom I am sending into the world.
The fathers whom I send to souls are men in My own image and likeness:
humble, meek, self–sacrificing, tender, and strong.
I will give to these fathers, chosen and sent out by Me
a wisdom and a courage that the enemies of My Cross
will not be able to confound. Let My priests forsake all selfishness and worldly aggrandisement
and so become fathers to souls in need of love, of comfort,
of direction, and guidance, and courage.
It is through My priests that the world will be healed
of the sufferings inflicted upon it by the absence of true fathers,
fathers in whom the tenderness and mercy of My own Father
will be revealed to His children in this valley of tears.Let my priests be fathers!
Let them beg Me for the grace of spiritual fatherhood,
and I will give it to them in abundance. Such a man was Saint Joseph.
He was the living image of My Father,
and he was chosen by My Father to be a father to Me in My sacred humanity.
Let my priests go to Saint Joseph.
He will obtain for them this priceless gift of spiritual fatherhood,
and he will guide them in the delicate and difficult work
of being true fathers to souls. Source: Vultus Christy © 2013-2014 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.
Ma'altho (Presentation of Christ in Temple)- February 2
by Fr. MarkThe Face of a Little Child Today, the Church sings that we have received Mercy "in the midst of the temple" (Ps 47:10). At the heart of today's mystery shines the face of a little Child, the human face of Divine Mercy. The four other figures in today's Gospel - Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna - are held in His gaze. In a homily for January 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI spoke tenderly of the Face of the Infant Christ. "God's Face took on a human face, letting itself be seen and recognized in the Son of the Virgin Mary, who for this reason we venerate with the loftiest title of Mother of God. She, who had preserved in her heart the secret of the divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the small fruit of her womb." Today we meet the gaze of the Infant Christ, "made like His brethren in every respect" (Heb 2:17) and, looking into His eyes, we see that He is already our "merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people" (Heb 2:17). The Presentation of Christ Our Priest Today in the midst of the temple the Father presents His Christ, our Priest, to us; and today the Father presents us to Christ our Priest. Of ourselves we have nothing to present; we can but receive Christ and allow ourselves to become an offering in His hands. "We have received your Mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple" (Ps 47:10). The Infant Christ, presented to us as our Priest, presents us, in turn, to the Father. It is fitting that the symbol of the Infant Christ should be the living flame that crowns our candles. This Child has a Heart of fire, and so the prophet says, "But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire . . . and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord" (Mal 3:2-3). The Infant Priest and Victim Today is the World Day for Consecrated Life. Consider the images that the liturgy sets before us: a flame that burns, consuming the wax that holds it aloft; a Child with the all-embracing gaze of the "Ancient of Days" (Dn 7:13); an Infant who is already Priest and Victim. Identification with Christ the Victim One consecrated in the monastic life is a taper offered to the consuming flame of love. One so consecrated has eyes only for the gaze of Christ, revealing a Heart that is all fire. One consecrated is presented and handed over to Christ the Priest. One consecrated is inescapably destined for the altar of sacrifice, for identification with Christ the Victim. Monastic life cannot be anything less than this, nor can it be anything more. This is why the Apostle says, "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1). The Woman Wrapped in Silence Each of the four figures surrounding the Infant Christ in the temple is an icon of consecrated life, beginning with his all-holy Virgin Mother. How does today's Gospel present her? She is a woman wrapped in silence. Even when addressed by Simeon, she remains silent. Her silence is an intensity of listening. She is silent so as to take in Simeon's song of praise, silent so as to capture his mysterious prophecy of soul-piercing sorrow and hold it in her Immaculate Heart. She is silent because today her eyes say everything, eyes fixed on the face of the Infant Christ, eyes illumined by the brightness of his gaze. Wordlessly, Mary offers herself to the living flame of love. She is the bride of the Canticle of whom it is said, "Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil" (Ct 4:1). Consecrated life in all its forms, and monastic life in particular, begins in the silence of Mary that, already in the temple, consents to the sacrifice of her Lamb and to the place that will be hers beside the altar of the Cross. Joseph and the Divine Desires Turning to Saint Joseph, what do we see? Joseph shares Mary's silence. Silence is the expression of their communion in a tender and chaste love, a love that is ready for sacrifice. Joseph listens with Mary. Saint Joseph is the first to enter deeply into the silence of the Virgin. It is his way of loving her. It is his way of trusting her beyond words. Saint Joseph: Tenderly Focused on the Face of Christ The silence of Saint Joseph becomes for all consecrated persons a way of loving, a way of trusting, a way of pushing back the frontiers of hope. I recall what Pope Benedict XVI said concerning the silence of Saint Joseph. "The silence of Saint Joseph," said the Holy Father, "is an attitude of total availability to the divine desires. . . . He stands beside the Church today, silent, listening, tenderly focused on the face of Christ in all his members." Consecrated life is just that: availability to the desires of God, a listening silence, and a way of focusing tenderly on the face of Christ in all his members. The Old Priest Sings Saint Simeon represents the ancient priesthood disappearing into the light of Christ, our "merciful and faithful high priest before God" (Heb 2:17). Simeon is the old priest pointing to the new. He speaks; he sings his praise; he utters prophecy. Saint Simeon models the vocation of every priest charged in the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the calling down of the Holy Ghost over altar, bread, wine, and people. Simeon has a particular relationship with the Holy Ghost. Three times in as many verses Saint Luke emphasizes the mystical synergy of Simeon and the Holy Ghost: "The Holy Ghost was upon him. . . " (Lk 2:25); "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost. . . . ; (Lk 2:26); "He came in the Spirit into the temple"; (Lk 2:27). In the Holy Ghost, Simeon contemplates the face of the Infant Christ; in the Holy Spirit he raises his voice in prophecy and in thanksgiving. In all of this Simeon shows us the characteristic traits of the new priesthood called to serve in the Holy Ghost. Anna of the Face of God Finally, there is Anna the prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel whose name means "Face of God." The widow Anna has made the temple her home. Abiding day and night in adoration, she emerges from the recesses of the temple only to give thanks to God and speak of the Child. Drawn into the light of the face of Christ she cannot but praise and immediately publish the good news "to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (Lk 2:38). Anna of the Face of God models the vocation of every consecrated woman called to be at once fully contemplative and fully apostolic. The old woman's encounter with the Infant Christ energizes and rejuvenates her. In some way, Anna is the first apostle sent out by the Holy Ghost. Before Mary Magdalene and before the twelve, Anna announces Christ. She is compelled to speak but does so out of an "adoring silence." She appears in the temple to publish the long-awaited arrival of Mercy, and in her eyes shines the light of his Face. Mercy in the flesh was passed like a living flame from the arms of Mary and Joseph into the arms of Simeon and, then, undoubtedly into the embrace of holy Anna. "We have received your Mercy, O God, in the midst of your temple" (Ps 47:10). The Consuming Fire of the Most Holy Eucharist We, who welcome Mercy in the midst of the temple, are compelled to present ourselves to Mercy at the altar, to give ourselves back to Mercy, to give ourselves up to Mercy, to surrender to Mercy's sweet, purifying flame. "Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb 12:28-29). Vultus Christie by Fr. Mark
© 2013-2014 The Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle. All Rights Reserved.
by Gayle SomersWhen Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple to fulfill Jewish law, they also fulfilled a treasured Messianic prophecy. How? Gospel: Luke 2:22-40 About a month after Jesus was born, His parents took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the law of Moses concerning firstborns (see Ex 13:1-3). What was that law? During the time of Israel's deliverance from bondage in Egypt, God gave to His people, through Moses, an ordinance requiring that every firstborn child born to Hebrew parents must be "dedicated" to the Lord. This requirement would constantly remind the Israelites of how all their firstborn children were spared from death by the blood of the Passover lambs on their doorposts. They owed their existence as a nation to God's supernatural protection of them. The firstborn could be dedicated to God to serve as a priest or could be bought back with a modest redemption offering. When Joseph and Mary arrived at the Temple, they were "amazed" at what greeted them there. Simeon and Anna, a man and a woman who represented all the "righteous and devout" people of Israel were there actively, faithfully "awaiting the consolation of Israel." They recognized Jesus as the fulfillment of all their Messianic hope. The Holy Spirit revealed to both of them that this ordinary-looking infant was anything but ordinary. Simeon swept Jesus into his arms and spoke directly to God: "Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation." God had promised this faithful man "that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord." With the prompting of the Spirit, Simeon knew God had kept His promise in this Child. He went on to prophetically describe the Child's future. Jesus would be both "a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for [God's] people, Israel." Then, speaking directly to Mary, Simeon describes a shadow that would accompany this Child's life: "Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted." The Child's mission would stir up trouble and call for decisions that would create division and opposition. What mother wants to hear that? There was more, of course: "You yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." How difficult this must have been for a new mother, in her first public maternal action, to learn! Suffering for both her Son and herself lay ahead. In fact, Simeon was bringing together many Messianic prophecies in this amazing benediction over Jesus and His mother. God's long-promised salvation for the whole world was right here, lying as an infant in his arms, and Simeon says He will grow up to become the Suffering Servant of Isaiah's majestic prophecies in the Old Testament. God had said even at the dawn of time in Eden, after the Fall, that a "woman" and her "seed" would take up the definitive battle against His primordial enemy, the devil (see Gen 3:15). Simeon knew, in fulfillment of all that God had earlier revealed, that great pain and great glory lay ahead. The prophetess, Anna, whom St. Luke identifies as "of the tribe of Asher," is also prompted by the Spirit, after a faithful life of prayer and fasting, to recognize the Child as the One for whom "all who were waiting the redemption of Jerusalem" sought. The tribe of Asher had been one of the ten northern tribes that were "lost" when the Assyrians conquered them in God's just judgment against their covenant unfaithfulness. She represents God's intention to recover all that was lost to Him through sin. Both Simeon and Anna saw in a tiny, newborn baby the hope of the whole world. It is fitting that these prophetic announcements about Jesus were made in the Temple. This was the place intended by God for the most intimate contact between Himself and His people. It was the holiest place on earth, because it was where God visited His people on the Day of Atonement every year, in the liturgical work of the high priest. Long before His earthly life unfolded, Jesus' work as both priest and victim were foreshadowed in this Temple visit. Jesus would return to the Temple, of course, at the beginning of His manhood and during the course of His public ministry. Eventually, He would prophesy its utter destruction. Why would that happen? He was born to become the New and living Temple where, for all eternity, God and man would meet. So many signs, so many wonders were present in this simple action by devout parents to obey God's law for family life. This gives us much to ponder, doesn't it? Possible response: St. Joseph and St. Mary, please pray for parents today to be faithful in raising their children according to God's Word.
by Dr. Mark GiszczakScripture: Malachi 3:1-4 On this Feast of the Presentation, the Lord comes to his Temple. But this time he comes not in a cloud of glory on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, but in the meekness and humility of a baby. Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus to be circumcised on the eighth day of his little life to fulfill the Old Testament law (Lev 12:3). His coming to the Temple is anticipated by the prophet Malachi in chapter 3. Two Messengers At the beginning of this passage, Malachi announces that the Lord is sending a messenger, "my messenger," a forerunner who will prepare the way for the coming of the Lord himself (3:1). But immediately after this announcement, he tells us that "the messenger of the covenant" will come, who is identified as the Lord himself. The prophet explains the forerunner messenger more completely in 4:5-6. The forerunner will come as Elijah, to initiate a ministry of reconciliation, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their fathers. After Elijah comes, the day of the Lord will arrive. Profane vs. Pleasing Sacrifice To get a full picture of what's going on in this passage, a little context will help. Early in the prophecy of Malachi, the Lord accuses the priests and Levites (those responsible for the ministry of Temple worship) of profaning the Temple sacrifices, making a mockery of true worship. Instead of offering pure and unblemished animals to the Lord, they have been sacrificing blind and lame animals - a serious insult to the Lord (Malachi 1:8).These acts demonstrates where their hearts are - far from faithfulness to the Lord. The Lord invokes his special covenant with the Levites (2:5) to ground his response to their offensive behavior. The Levites were especially called by God and so ought to have been especially faithful. In Malachi 3, the Lord is announcing the "day of his coming," the coming of the Lord to enforce the covenant agreements he has with the Levites. The Lord will come to judge and to purify, to mend his relationship with his priestly family. Repeatedly in the New Testament the concept of worshipping with a pure heart is emphasized. Jesus teaches us to be reconciled with one another before we worship (Matt 5:23-24). He describes how the Lord desires "mercy, not sacrifice" (Matt 9:13). St. Paul tells that real fidelity to the Lord is a matter of the heart, not just a matter of external practices (Rom 2:29). The Lord wants his people to offer pleasing sacrifices from a pure heart, not profane sacrifices coming from a duplicitous heart. Two Metaphors for Judgment Malachi describes the judgment of the Lord using two powerful metaphors. The first metaphor focuses on refining people in the way that precious metals are refined, with an especially hot fire. The Lord's purpose in judgment is not to destroy his people, but to purify them, to make them holy by his judgment. He wants to restore them, not to destroy them. (You can watch the process of refining gold here) The second metaphor also highlights a process of purification: bleaching. The "lye" used for bleaching here is most likely vegetable lye, a caustic alkaline substance derived from certain kinds of plant ash. This chemical would have been used by "fullers" for bleaching fibers for cloth. Fullers weren't exactly laundrymen. Rather, they were responsible for taking partially processed fibers and preparing them to be made into cloth, by cleansing them from natural oils and dirt, so they could by dyed. As with refining, the metaphor of bleaching focuses on the purifying power of God's judgment, not its destructive force. Restoration and Fulfillment This whole passage points to God's desire to restore a right relationship with his people. It looks to the "days of old" with fondness, as a time of covenant love and fidelity. The roles of the forerunner and the divine messenger are about reconciliation and restoration, bringing God's people back to him. This passage looks forward to fulfillment in the New Testament. John the Baptist comes in the spirit and power of Elijah, as the forerunner (Matt 17:10-13). Jesus comes to the Temple as the "messenger of the covenant," first as a little baby and later as a suffering king. He comes to the Temple to teach, to worship, and to cleanse it from the money-changers. Jesus comes to restore God's relationship with his people and to bring it to a whole new level. We can draw several conclusions from this passage in Malachi: God takes his loving relationship with us very seriously and he expects us to do the same. He desires for us to worship him with a pure heart - offering a pleasing sacrifice of praise. He doesn't want to destroy us when we are unfaithful to him, but to restore us, to purify us, to bring us back. He is a God who keeps his promises to us and he helps us to keep our promises to him. May his refining fire and his heavenly bleach purify us!
Gospel: Luke 2:22-40 There was a married couple who had to wait 16 years before their first child was born. Over those years, nothing weakened their hope or anticipation of this joyous event. You can imagine how they radiated joy when they held their long-awaited child in their arms for the first time. What are you still waiting for to happen in your life? Are you looking for fame, security or prosperity? Or are you longing for your life to be transformed by God's presence? Some people think that they can experience God just as easily on a golf course, or walking around a lake, as in church. The problem with this claim is that no-one actually "worships" God on a golf course, and how many have had a life-changing experience of God while boating on a lake that led them to tell others about God and to love and serve their neighbors better? Those who truly love God, have most often found His encouraging and motivating presence in the Lord's House. Here we're challenged to no longer live for ourselves, but for our Saviour Jesus Christ and our neighbors and fellow-church members He loves so dearly. The Christmas story concludes with women and men in the temple, where God can impact on their lives. As soon as possible, Jesus was brought to the temple, to be in His Father's House. There Jesus is met by two people who have waited all their lives for this moment, Simeon and Anna. Anna had never missed a Service. She was from the least, lost tribe of Israel and was a well-known figure at the temple. Anna is called a prophetess, a title of rare distinction, given to only seven other women in the Bible. She used the tragedy of her young husband's death as an opportunity to grow closer to God. She filled the vacuum in her life with praying for others and living for the day when Jesus would come to the temple. In God's service, there's no age limit. St. John wrote our fourth Gospel while in his 80s. Now in her 80s, Anna becomes an exuberant witness to our Savior's coming. She knew sorrow, but had not grown bitter. Anna hadn't grown old with the sense of dejection and dependency that afflicts many older men and women today. Anna served God with heroic fidelity. She knew God doesn't let His faithful servants shed a needless tear. After wrestling with God in prayer for many years, Anna now sees God's likeness in the face of His Son, Jesus. Any pastor can tell you of elderly Christian widows aglow with the joy of salvation. Anna cannot restrain her joy at seeing our Saviour. Bubbling over with joy and gratitude, she shares with everyone she meets the arrival of salvation from fear and guilt, from sin and death, in the Son of Mary. Years later, many people remembered what Anna, with a youthful exuberance, had told them about the greatest day of her life. It's as if being in her Savior's presence has made her feel young again and given her new energy to sing our Savior's praises. The gift of salvation is worth singing about, worthy of a full-bodied celebration, as Simeon shows. His joy too knows no bounds as he sees for the first time the whole reason for his existence. In an unforgettable picture, Simeon takes the Christ-child in his arms and sings a hymn of praise to God for the precious gift of Jesus. Simeon's song is one of the treasures of our Holy Communion liturgy. What a moving overture and personal expression of thanksgiving this post-Christmas hymn is. Simeon was given a greater promise than he'd asked for. He confesses more than is visible to human eyes. Simeon's song contains no narrow reference to just himself. He sees the good news of Christ extending to every nation, over all the earth. In fact, he mentions the Gentiles (all non-Jewish nations) before his fellow-countrymen. What a magnificent, universal vision so soon after Christmas Eve! Having reached the highpoint of his life, the zenith of his existence, he savors the fulfillment of his fondest dreams. There's nothing secretive about our Savior's existence. His death for all people was a public event and not something for some super-spiritual elite. Light is a symbol of security. Jesus is a Light to the Gentiles because only in Christ can all people find a safe and secure future before and after death. Although our salvation came at great personal cost to Him, our Saviour Jesus believes we are worth saving. Instead of employing force, Jesus surrendered His life to save us from all that would ruin us in this life, or in the life to come after death. Jesus brings us salvation now from distress and despair, defeat and disappointment. The New Testament speaks frequently of salvation in the present tense. Salvation is a present experience of our Savior's help and companionship, love and protection. Salvation is our Lord's sovereign act of rescue, that can be tasted here and now, and fully enjoyed in the life to come. Jesus saves us from the corrupting influences around us in our community, so that our lives are shaped week by week by His transforming presence. Simeon can depart in peace because salvation brings peace with God, peace like nothing on earth. His peace fills us with a cheerful contentment, because it alone meets the deepest longings of our hearts. To taste Christ's gift of salvation is to experience His goodness and grace in our lives, week by week. It is knowing that all you do for your Lord is never in vain. Simeon shared St. Paul's motto: "For me to live is Christ, and to die is more of Christ." In the presence of Christ, the Lord of life, death loses its terror. The Lord's Supper is called a "Means of Salvation", because in this priceless sacrament, we receive the blessings of salvation now. Simeon's song is part of our Holy Communion liturgy, to remind us that we receive the benefits of the birth, life and suffering of our Saviour in this life-giving, life-enriching sacrament. In Holy Communion, we receive the same Saviour whom Simeon held in his arms. Christ's presence in the bread and wine is as real to us as it was in Simeon's arms. The work of Christmas continues in the Lord's Supper. Holy Communion enables us to face the future free of fear, because of the pledge and assurance of our salvation this sacrament so boldly bestows on us. For hundreds of millions of Christians throughout the world today, receiving Holy Communion will be a privilege they receive with trembling joy and gratitude. Why? Because as our offering song "Let the vineyards be fruitful" says, all who love our Lord are given "a foretaste of the feast to come." Truly, our salvation is worth singing about and celebrating with hearts overflowing with thanksgiving. We pray:
O dearest Jesus, here I pray:Source: LCA
by Roy LloydGospel: Luke 2:22-40 Our Gospel from the second chapter of Luke proclaims Jesus as the light for revelation. Blessed Simeon was waiting to see this light, and it was revealed to him as Jesus was brought into the temple as a baby. And he sang out, "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." Into the darkness of this world came the light of God, Jesus Christ. Isaiah, in our lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures, shouts aloud the vindication of God's people that shines out like the dawn, the salvation that burns like a torch. Or, as we have heard so often, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined." In the darkness of so many difficult days, these words of comfort and joy ease my heart. Certainly this is a year that needs a message of hope and joy just as when Jesus was born. In the time of Mary and Joseph, people yearned with all their might for salvation -- from poverty, the oppression of the occupying Roman army, from Herod, the sick and gloomy tyrant who ruled their lives. Religious fanatics were increasing in number all the time. People rushed after each new one, only to be disappointed. To a world of turmoil, war, police states like Israel under Herod, came the Son of God, the bearer of peace. It was a time of violence between people and governments. Some began to debase their flesh and things of this physical world. And a stiff rebuke comes lovingly from God in the form of a child who shows us our bodies and our world are holy -- holy because God made them. Jesus brought a positive attitude toward life and living. Life was to be lived in covenant with God, not merely endured. He came as a child who grew into a man who was crucified for us. Jesus is the Light of the World. Arise, shine, for your light has come. Our world is lit by God's holiness. There was a time during World War I when soldiers confronted each other from their respective trenches. It was Christmas Eve. And a German soldier was heard singing, "Silent Night" in German. British soldiers began to sing back, in English. Soon both sides were singing and an unofficial truce was declared as soldiers, under white flags, joined each other in no-man's land. And they celebrated Christmas together. When they returned to their respective sides, they wouldn't fire on each other any longer. The enemy now had a face, and it looked like theirs. The troops had to be replaced on each side because they fired over each other's heads rather than at each other. Christmas has a way of doing that. It breaks down the barriers and makes us more aware of our kinship. Let me tell you a story of a young man who some 36 years ago stood in the cave in Bethlehem which is under the Church of the Nativity. As he stood there, in the space which tradition has claimed as the birthplace of Jesus, he noticed the diverse crowd standing close to each other, for it is a small space. There were pilgrims from around the world, all there because they loved the Lord. And one voice began to sing, in German, the Christmas hymn we know as "Silent Night." And one by one, in the first languages of that assembled band of Christians, came a glorious rendition of "Silent Night." Despite the differences of language, there was no need of interpretation. And for that young man, it was a moment of deep commitment to Jesus and it was a time of insight--Jesus is indeed the one for all people, for all nations. And I must say, I don't think I've ever been the same. This is a time to welcome each other and to share the light of the world. In medieval times, there was a charming legend that on Christmas Eve the Christ Child wandered throughout the world looking for places where he would be welcomed. Those who loved him--hoping he would find their homes--placed lighted candles in the window to invite him in. No one knew what he would look like when he came. He might be a beggar. Blind. A poor and lonely child. So devout Christians welcomed all into their homes who knocked on their door on Christmas Day. To turn anyone away may have meant rejecting the Christ Child. At Christmas, we remember that the Christ Child is wandering our roads, looking for homes where He will be given warmth and shelter. May He find a place in our hearts and in our homes where there is room for Him. Is Christ knocking now? Will you open the door? Jesus said, "I am the Light of the world." And he also said, "You are the light of the world." In these simple words we have the summary of what it means to be a Christian. Our credo is "Christ is the Light of the world." "You are the light of the world" sums up our plain obligation to reflect this light. Jesus is the Light of the world for all. The light shines in the darkness--of Afghanistan, Bethlehem, and Jerusalem and the whole area we call the Holy Land, and where all of us are gathered at this very moment. The Light shines in the face of inhumanity to others. Homelessness and hunger and not enough money. The Light shines when the heroism of the bravest who protect us brings them harm. Into the darkness we have created with our own hands comes God's answer. The answer of love. Just a little bit of light can make a great deal of difference. It could be the reassuring light at the other end of the tunnel for someone. We need to light up the lives of others with love and joy and decency. A little song comes to mind: "This Little Light of Mine." This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine. Well, will your little light shine? That's the big question. And your answer will make a big difference to the world around you.
"Arise, shine, for your light has come.""The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined."You may know the story of the man who refused to go to church with his family on Christmas Eve because he didn't believe the Gospel story. As he was reading the paper, he heard a noise at the front picture window. The snow was coming down hard and the wind had picked up. He went to investigate and discovered two small sparrows that had flown into the window. Other sparrows were perched on the bushes, cold and shivering. He felt sorrow for them and got on his coat and went out and picked up the injured birds, carrying them to the warmth of the barn where he thought the other birds would come in and find shelter. He left the doors open, but the other birds didn't follow. So he placed breadcrumbs, like Hansel and Gretel, as a path. Surely, he thought, the hungry little birds would follow. They didn't. So he tried to chase them into the barn. It didn't work. Finally, frustrated, he sat down and thought, "If I could just talk to them and get them to know I want to help them and save them. But," he thought, " I can't do it unless I become one of them--become one of them!" Then the church bells began to ring and the man knelt in the deep snow realizing he now knew this peace on earth the angels sang about. And he said, "Thank you, God, for becoming one of us." When I think of Christmas, I think of gifts -- that of Jesus to us, the gifts of the Magi, the gifts we give to each other as signs of love and care. What kind of gifts are we to each other? Perhaps this final little story might give some clue. It takes place in the midst of the Great Depression when a family of three -- Mom, Dad, and little six-year old Peter -- had absolutely no money for store-bought presents. Nevertheless, they were inventive in celebrating Christmas. They decided to make pictures of the presents they would like to give one another if money were no object. So they drew pictures or cut out pictures from catalogs and magazines. They put the pictures into boxes, stuck some old bows on them, and put them under a scraggly Christmas tree. On Christmas morning the tree was heaped with riches. The gifts were only pictures, to be sure, but they were symbols of Christmas giving. There was a shiny new car for Dad and a red motor boat, some golf clubs, a new suit, some sweaters, and an all-weather coat. Mom found her dream house and a diamond necklace, dresses, coats, and a vacation cruise. Most of the make-believe presents were for little Pete. There were pictures of a camping tent, a new bicycle, a pedal car, and all kinds of toys and games. Now, of course, Mom and Dad didn't expect anything from little Pete. But Petey, with a squeal of delight, crawled under the tree and pulled out a gift he had prepared all by himself. He handed his present to his parents with a smile and they opened it. They found a picture drawn with first-grade crayons. It was a picture of three people standing together with big smiles on their faces. They had their arms around each other. And under the picture, Petey had printed a single word -- "us." The light dawned and tears of joy filled the eyes of the parents because they realized that, in years to come, they may be able to give some of those Christmas presents they had only imagined, but they could never give a present more precious than the one they had received that year -- the gift of love they had for each other. The Christ Child is found whenever greed is overcome by generosity, whenever hatred is squeezed out by love, whenever war is overwhelmed by peace, whenever despair gives way to hope. Christ's love can fill our hearts and bind us together. Into the darkness of this world has come the Light of God, Jesus Christ. Rejoice! Let us pray. Lord God, how wonderfully you came to take away all our fear and all our doubts. You came as the Light of the world to be our help and to remove our pride. Help us to know that your Light is to be reflected by us into all the world. Help us to know, Lord, that we no longer need to search far and wide, high and low to find God. The glow of your holiness leads us to you for you are the Light at the end of our spiritual tunnel. Fill us with your Spirit and bring us to kneel at your manger, there to confess, "My Lord and my God." Amen. About The Author: Roy T. Lloyd regularly provides commentaries on 1010 WINS AM in New York City. He is President of the International Forgiveness Institute.
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by Os Hillman
"The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD."When I was 14 years old I was an exceptional junior golfer. This is not pride on my part, but merely a fact. I had already broken 70 several times and had three hole-in-ones. I competed in the US Junior Amateur and eventually turned pro after attending college on a four year golf scholarship. Those who knew me affirmed the gift and calling that appeared to be on my life. I turned professional for about three years, but God later redirected my life into business and vocational ministry. All of these experiences have combined over many years to contribute to the calling I am living out today. As we mature in our natural and spiritual lives, God uses our parents, teachers, uncles, coaches and pastors to affirm the gifts and callings that are on our lives. At the time, it often seems like these people are trying to get in the way of what we want to do. However, God uses authority figures to provide key direction during the early teen and twenty-something years. He is using these people to help guide us to the ultimate destiny He has for our lives. When we are young, we are often more impressionable than at any other time in our lives. The young person who can allow wisdom to rule over immaturity and impatience is a rare individual. However, if you are able to receive from the people God puts in your life at this stage, you will be so far ahead of your peers and you will be amazed. "God is continually preparing His heroes, and when the opportunity is right, He puts them into position in an instant. He works so fast, the world wonders where they came from," said A. B. Simpson. Let God do the foundation work so that he can advance you to His ultimate destiny He has for your life. Source: Today God is First - Daily Workplace Inspiration by Os Hillman
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