Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Mayaltho - Presentation of The Lord

Volume 4 No. 193 January 30, 2014

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Infant Jesus Presented in Temple-Hansholbeind
Jesus presented at Temple
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (February 2)

Bible Readings For Ma'altho (Presentation of our Lord at the temple)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Mayaltho.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (February 2)

Sermons for Ma'altho
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Mayaltho.htm

3. Invitation To Submit Material for Two Centum (Issue 200) Mega Special of MWJ

We invite your creative submissions for this special issue. Articles on various themes, Poetry/Hymns, Articles/Poems by Children and painting/sketches/photos are also welcome.

In order to meet the editorial deadline, please inform the editor of your intent to submit material by February 12 and the material by February 23. You can contact the editor at mail@malankaraworld.com

THEMATIC ARTICLES: MAYALTHO

4. Foreword: Mayaltho by Dr. Jacob Mathew

What is so special about Mayaltho? For starters, it shows that Jesus was brought up strictly in conformance with the Jewish customs, traditions and Mosaic laws. He underwent circumcision after 8-days as required; he went through the dedication/presentation after 40 days; he went through baptism; he also attended the temple/synagogue regularly. Although some people may think that New Testament laws are not applicable after the arrival of Jesus, Jesus made it very clear that he didn't come to change any laws; but to reinforce them. ...

5. Biblical Reflections on Mayaltho by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel

Mayaltho (Ma'altho) is the third out of the ten obligatory feasts of Holy Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. We celebrate Mayaltho on the 2nd of February that is the fortieth day after Christmas. Special Holy Mass should be observed on that day if it does not fall on a Sunday... The Syriac term Mayaltho refers to the dedication of baby Jesus in the temple of God. According to the scriptures,  Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple of God to fulfill the sacrifice of purification. According to the Law of Moses, the firstborn male baby should be dedicated before the temple of God on the fortieth day of his birth....

6. Presentation of the Lord by St. Ephraem

Excerpted from "Homily on Our Lord," by St. Ephraem (d. A.D. 373)

Now Simeon the priest, when he took Him up in his arms to present Him before God, understood as he saw Him that He was not presenting Him, but was being himself presented. For the Son was not presented by the servant to His Father, hut the servant was presented by the Son to his Lord. For it is not possible that He, by Whom every offering is presented, should be presented by another. For the offering does not present him that offers it; but by them that offer are offerings presented. ...

7. Presentation of Jesus: From a sermon by Saint Sophronius

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God. ...

8. Simeon is Open to The Lord's Action by Pope John Paul II

The Lucan narrative says nothing of his past or of the service he carried out in the temple; it tells of a deeply religious man who nurtures great desires in his heart and awaits the Messiah, the consolation of Israel. In fact, "the Holy Spirit was upon him" and "it had been revealed to him ... that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Lk 2:25-26). Simeon invites us to look at the merciful action of God who pours out the Spirit on his faithful to bring to fulfillment his mysterious project of love. ...

9. A Dramatic Moment That Almost Everyone Missed by Msgr. Charles Pope

Joseph and Mary have ascended to Jerusalem to fulfill two ancient mandates: the Rite of Purification for a woman after childbirth and the Rite of Presentation of their firstborn male child, Jesus. These rites set the stage for a dramatic moment in Biblical history, a moment missed by almost everyone. We shall explore this dramatic moment shortly but first a little background. ...

10. The Light that Enlightens Every Man by Jeffrey S. J. Allan

The exegete, Nicholas of Lyra, suggests that circumcision is how Jesus manifests the reality of His Humanity. He also explains that as God, Jesus instituted circumcision, and therefore undergoing this process Himself, demonstrates His approval of it; and for our Lady and Saint Joseph, this was necessary according to the law which they knew so well. There is a mysterious level of humility here as well: as an Infant, He is incapable of making decisions, but as God He accepts upon Himself a procedure that is unnecessary – in other words, He makes Himself subject to His own law. ...

11. Story of Anna: Can Hopes Come True At Christmas? by Mark Adams

Joseph and Mary have just brought Jesus to the temple eight days after His birth to be dedicated and on the way out they are greeted by two senior adults who recognize Jesus as God's Messiah. One of these is Simeon and the other is Anna. ... if we were to ask Anna this question: "Can hopes come true at Christmas?" What would she say? I think she would answer, "Yes they can! But there are two things we must remember." And the first is this. Hopes CAN come true at Christmas if…

12. Hymn: Canticle of Symeon by Michael Joncas

A beautiful poetical rendition of St. Luke's Gospel (2:29-32), popularly known as Nunc Dimittis - The Canticle of Simeon.

13. For More Articles on Mayaltho

Malankara World Journal Issue 123: Jan 31 2013
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_123.htm

REGULAR COLUMNS

14. Health: Tips for Indulging Your Taste Buds While on a Diet

It's hard to stick to a low-calorie diet day after day to lose weight, but new research shows you don't have to, says Dr. Susie Rockway, a veteran nutritional and biochemical expert in the U.S. health industry. ...

15. Family Special: Replacing My Cravings

I had to get honest enough to admit it: I relied on food more than I relied on God. I craved food more than I craved God. Food was my comfort. Food was my reward. Food was my joy. Food was what I turned to in times of stress, sadness, and even in times of happiness.

I knew this battle would be hard. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn't part of my healthy eating plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot. ...

16. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (February 2)

Bible Readings For Mayaltho (Presentation of our Lord at the temple)

February 2nd is celebrated as the day when infant Jesus was presented in the temple.
Also called the day of the old aged. Feast of St. Simon and St. Hanna.

Sermons for This Sunday (February 2)
Invitation To Submit Material for Two Centum (Issue 200) Mega Special of MWJ
Malankara World Journal will publish a Mega Special Issue to celebrate the publication of Issue 200. The issue is expected to be released on March 5, 2014.

We invite your creative submissions for this special issue. Articles on various themes, Poetry/Hymns, Articles/Poems by Children and painting/sketches/photos are also welcome.

In order to meet the editorial deadline, please inform the editor of your intent to submit material by February 12 and the material by February 23. You can contact the editor at mail@malankaraworld.com You can also contact any member of the Board of Malankara World.

Thank you.

Malankara World Team

THEMATIC ARTICLES: MAYALTHO

Foreword: Mayaltho
This Sunday (February 2) is the last day of the liturgical Christmas Season.

Christmas Season? We already celebrated the baptism of Jesus and the beheading of John the Baptist. Isn't Christmas over?

Well, yes and no. The church celebrates certain important events by the actual dates and others can fall in-between.

The circumcision of the Lord is celebrated on Jan 1 (8 days after Dec 25), The Baptism of our Lord (Denho) is traditionally celebrated on Jan 6 and Mayaltho (Dedication/Presentation of our Lord) is celebrated on February 2.

February 2 happens to be exactly 40 days after the birth of Jesus (December 25 + 40 days). Jesus was brought to the temple for dedication/presentation as required by the Jewish tradition. Jesus, being the firstborn, had to be dedicated. Also, St. Mary had to be "purified" after the delivery as is required under Mosaic Law. These two things happened on Mayaltho. When you read the Gospel narratives, we fast forward to the adult life of Jesus (except for an incident reported when Jesus was 12 years old in temple.) But Mayaltho, is the last of the so-called infant narratives of Jesus. So, it is the last one of the feasts on the Church Christmas Calendar.

What is so special about Mayaltho? For starters, it shows that Jesus was brought up strictly in conformance with the Jewish customs, traditions and Mosaic laws. He underwent circumcision after 8-days as required; he went through the dedication/presentation after 40 days; he went through baptism; he also attended the temple/synagogue regularly. Although some people may think that New Testament laws are not applicable after the arrival of Jesus, Jesus made it very clear that he didn't come to change any laws; but to reinforce them. What Jesus disagreed with Pharisees and other elders of the temple was on the literal way they interpreted the law (without mercy), especially regarding the observance of Sabbath, not that the law can be broken.

The other reason why Mayaltho is very special is because of the encounter of Jesus with Simeon and Anna, two people who were waiting for the arrival of the messiah. They were promised that they will not die before seeing the messiah in person. When they saw the infant Jesus, they immediately recognized him. Simeon, filled with holy spirit, provides us with the third canticle we see in the infant narratives of St. Luke. We had covered other two in earlier editions of Malankara World Journal: The first is the Magnificat (Canticle of Mary), Mary's poem when she visited Elizabeth. The second one is the Benedictus (Canticle of Zachary), pronounced by Zechariah after the birth/naming John the Baptist and getting his power to speak back. Both these canticles provides important links of Messiah to the old testament and the covenant of God.

We encounter the last one given by Simeon in Mayaltho. It is called Nunc Dimittis (The Canticle of Simeon) and is found in Luke 2:29-32. The title of this canticle (Nunc Dimittis) comes from the opening words in the Latin version of Simeon's canticle, "Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine" etc.). ("Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord" etc.).

Here is the full text of Nunc Dimittis in King James Version:

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

In a more modern translation (The Message) the canticle reads:

God, you can now release your servant;
release me in peace as you promised.
With my own eyes I've seen your salvation;
it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:
A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations,
and of glory for your people Israel.

What a beautiful prayer!! It is still sung daily at evening prayers in the Orthodox Church. Christ is still the salvation God prepared for all people. He is the light of the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel.

Although this Canticle is very brief, it is rich in Old-Testament allusions. Thus, in the following verses:

"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word" alludes to Genesis 46:30;
"Because my eyes have seen thy salvation" alludes to Isaiah, 52:10, rendered afterwards by St. Luke (3:6), "And all flesh shall see the salvation of God". Verse 3:31, "Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples" accords with the Psalmist (117:2); and verse 3:32,

"A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, ad the glory of thy people Israel", recalls Isaiah 62:6 and Acts 10:45, 13:47, and 28:28.

This canticle has inspired many poems and hymns. Here is one by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette:

"Lord, let your servant go in peace;
Your Word has been fulfilled."
Because we've seen your saving grace
We know that all is well.

Through all the sorrow, pain and death,
We dare, O God, to sing.
For you once sent your Son to earth -
And that changed everything.

There's much we cannot understand,
Nor order, nor control;
We place our lives into your hands
And trust you'll make us whole.

Lord, let your servants daily know
That we are not alone;
And may we find, where'er we go,
You'll lead us safely home.

Biblical Reference: Luke 2:29-32
Tune: Alexander Robert Reinagle, 1836 ("In Christ There is No East or West")
Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved.

The other heroine in this story is Anne. We have a very interesting presentation on Anne in the article 'Story of Anna: Can Hopes Come True At Christmas?' by Mark Adams. This is an extremely rich presentation. Please take your time reading it more than once.

Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel, a person I respect quite a lot, has written an article explaining the importance of Mayaltho in our church. Achen is a bible scholar, having spent more than a decade working with Kaniamparambil achen translating the original Syriac/Aramaic (Peshitta) bible to Malaylam as "Vishuddha Grandham". He is a great asset to our church. Thank you achen for your contribution.

The follow-up to the series on Joseph, the Patriarch was to be included in this issue. As this issue became too big, I have moved it to the next issue.

We are looking for contributions to our Two Centum Issue (Issue 200) tentatively scheduled to be released on March 5. We also seek work from children and youth including paintings. So, encourage your children to create original works for a world-wide audience.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Biblical Reflections on Mayaltho

by Rev. Fr. Jose Daniel Paitel, Philadelphia, USA.

Gospel: Luke. 2: 22-35

Mayaltho (Ma'altho) is the third out of the ten obligatory feasts of Holy Universal Syriac Orthodox Church. This is the third obligatory one we celebrate after the feast of Christmas. We celebrate Mayaltho on the 2nd of February that is the fortieth day after Christmas. Special Holy Mass should be observed on that day if it does not fall on a Sunday. That day should be observed like Sunday, the Lord's day. Failure of attending the church worship on Mayaltho is considered as a sin that should be confessed. Even though mayaltho comes from an Old Testament tradition, exclusively observed by the Israelites, we are also obliged to celebrate it without hesitation because our Lord and our savior followed it to establish His Jewish lineage.

The Syriac term Mayaltho refers to the dedication of baby Jesus in the temple of God. According to the scriptures, the parents Joseph and Mary brought baby Jesus to the temple of God to fulfill the sacrifice of purification. According to the Law of Moses, the firstborn male baby should be dedicated before the temple of God on the fortieth day of his birth. This applies to every male firstborn offspring of the Israelites. Jesus had to be dedicated to the Temple of God in observance of the scriptures. There are certain scriptural evidence supporting the celebration of these feasts altogether.

Ritualistic importance of Mayaltho comes from the redemption of the first born. It was a required ritual for all the Israelites since the exodus of Israelites from Egypt. Commencement of this ritual was based on the commandments of God through Moses, the chief of the prophets. As the first born offspring of Mariam, baby Jesus has to be brought forth to the Temple of God to be qualified as a legitimate Israelite following the commandments of his tribe. It was based on the redemption of the first born among the children of Israelites from the tragic carnage on the Passover night.

There are three important ceremonies observed in connection with the great Passover.

First one is the Feast of Passover. That is a week-long feast, with restrictions in regular food habits. This should be celebrated deliberately by everyone among the Israelites following the Law of Moses. Certain restrictions on the food on that festival week comes from the memory of eating the bread without yeast.

Then Moses said to the people, "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used his mighty hand to bring you out of there. Don't eat anything made with yeast." - Exo.13:3

"The meat must be eaten that same night. It must be roasted over a fire and eaten with bitter herbs and unleavened bread." - Exodus 12:8-9

"Don't eat any of it raw or boiled but roast the whole animal over a fire."
- Exodus. 12:9

"The whole community of Israel must celebrate the Passover." - Exodus 12:47

Second one is the Sanctification of Levites, the third one of Jacob's family as the tribe separated for priesthood instead of the firstborn of every family of Israelites from the Egyptian massacre.

"Out of all the Israelites, I have taken the Levites to be substitutes for every firstborn male offspring among them. The Levites are mine, because every firstborn is mine. The day I killed every firstborn male in Egypt, I set apart as holy every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They will be mine. I am the Lord."
- Num. 3: 12-13

Third one is the 40th day Dedication of the Firstborn Male Before the Temple of God.

This is observed by all tribes of Israel regardless of their ethnicity.

Sacrifice every firstborn male offspring to the Lord. The firstborn male offspring of each of your animals belongs to the Lord.
- Exo.13: 12

Every firstborn male, human or animal, that is brought to the Lord is yours. But you must buy back every firstborn son and the firstborn male of any unclean animal.
- Num.18: 15

"Tell the Israelites: When a woman gives birth to a boy, she will be unclean for seven days. This is the same number of days she is unclean for her monthly period. The boy must be circumcised when he is eight days old. Then she must stay at home for 33 days in order to be made clean from her bleeding. She must not touch anything holy or go into the holy place until the days needed to make her clean are over.
- Leviticus 12: 2-4

"When the days needed to make her clean are over, she must bring a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or a mourning dove as an offering for sin. She must bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting.
- Leviticus. 12: 6

Joseph and Mary were not rich enough to afford a lamb for the sacrifice and they choose the birds for the prescribed sacrifice.

Mayaltho is the service of dedication, cleanliness and purification that was observed for Jesus and Mother Mary in the temple of God.

The service observed for Jesus was especially important for Christians because God himself became a redeemer for our salvation. He bought us back from the mighty hands of the Heavenly Father by dedicating himself as a true sacrifice. Jesus became a true sacrifice like a lamb before the Holy Altar of God. He himself became obedient before the Law of His heavenly Father. He proved that the observance of the law of God applies to each and every human being born out of flesh and blood.

The adherence to the law of God is not enough for our salvation in the eyes of God. The Israelites could earn it by being in the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For Gentiles, salvation can be inherited only if we are saved by the victorious cross of our Lord. Jesus, himself a true Israelite and promised son of Abraham, could be bought back by the sacrifice of a lamb or a turtle dove instead. Those who were born out of the Abrahamic lineage can be adopted to the same lineage through the salvific act of our Lord. That is the New Testament law of Christ who abides in us.

If we were not redeemed or bought back by His blood, we could not become the children of God. We were not being able to stand among the congregation of the first converts who are enrolled in heaven.

We will be kept unclean like the sheep or any unclean animal as described in the Law of Moses. - Heb. 12: 23

Setting Aside Firstborn Males for God: You must dedicate every firstborn male from your herds and flocks to the Lord your God. Never use a firstborn ox for work, and never shear a firstborn sheep. If a first born male donkey could not be brought back by its master, that must be killed. - Deuteronomy 15: 19

Fortunately we are redeemed by the precious blood of our savior. Because we are precious to him, our master paid a high price to redeem us. In return, we should live a life that will make Him proud of us when He comes back.

Presentation of the Lord by St. Ephraem
Excerpt from "Homily on Our Lord," by St. Ephraem (d. A.D. 373)

48. Now Simeon the priest, when he took Him up in his arms to present Him before God, understood as he saw Him that He was not presenting Him, but was being himself presented. For the Son was not presented by the servant to His Father, hut the servant was presented by the Son to his Lord. For it is not possible that He, by Whom every offering is presented, should be presented by another. For the offering does not present him that offers it; but by them that offer are offerings presented. So then He Who receives offerings gave Himself to be offered by another, that those who presented Him, while offering Him, might themselves be presented by Him. For as He gave His body to be eaten, that when eaten It might quicken to life them that ate Him; so He gave Himself to be offered, that by His Cross the hands of them that offered Him might be sanctified.

So, then, though the arms of Simeon seemed to be presenting the Son, yet the words of Simeon testified that he was presented by the Son. Therefore we can have no dispute concerning this, because that which was said put an end to dispute; 'Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace. He then who is let depart to go in peace to God, is presented as an offering to God. And in order to make known by whom he was presented, he said, For lo! mine eyes have seen Thy mercy.'

If there was no grace wrought on him, why then did he give thanks? But rightly did he give thanks, that he was thought worthy to receive in his arms Him, Whom angels and prophets greatly desired to see. For lo! mine eyes have seen Thy mercy. Let us understand then and see. Is mercy that which shows mercy to another, or is it that which receives mercy from another? But if mercy is that which shows mercy to all, well did Simeon call our Lord by the name of the mercy that showed mercy to him, Him Who freed him from the world which is full of snares, that he might go to Eden which is full of pleasures; for he who was priest said and testified that he was offered as an offering, that from the midst of the perishing world he should go and be stored up in the treasure-house which is kept safe. For one for whom it may be that what he has found should be lost, to him it belongs to be diligent that it should be kept safe. But for our Lord it could not be that He should be lost; but by Him the lost were found. So then, through the Son Who could not be lost. the servant who was very desirous not to be lost, was presented. Lo! mine eyes have seen Thy mercy. It is evident Simeon received grace from that Child Whom he was carrying. For inwardly he received grace from that Infant, Whom openly he received in his arms. For through Him Who was glorious, even when He was carried, being small and feeble, he that carried Him was made great.

49. But inasmuch as Simeon endured to carry on his weak arms that Majesty which the creatures could not endure, it is evident that his weakness was made strong by the strength which he carried. For at that time Simeon also along with all creatures was secretly upheld by the almighty strength of the Son. Now this is a marvel, that outwardly it was he that was strengthened that carried Him Who strengthened him; but inwardly it was tile strength that bore its bearer. For the Majesty straitened itself, that they who carried it might endure it; in order that as far as that Majesty stooped to our littleness, so far should our love be raised up from all desires to reach that Majesty.

50. So likewise the ship that carried our Lord; it was He that bare it, in that He stayed from it the wind that would have sunk it. Peace, for thou art shut up. While He was on the sea, His arm reached even to the fountain of the wind, to shut it up. The ship bare His manhood, but the power of His Godhead bare the ship and all that was therein. But that He might show that even His manhood needed not the ship, instead of the planks which a shipwright puts together and fastens, He like the Architect of creation, made the waters solid and joined them together and laid them under His feet.

So the Lord strengthened the hands of Simeon the Priest, that his arms might bear up hi the Temple the strength that was bearing-up all; as He strengthened the feet of Simeon the Apostle, that they might bear themselves up on the water. And so that name which bore the first-begotten in the Temple was afterwards borne up by the first-begotten in the sea; that He might show that as in the sea the drowning was borne up by Him, He did not need to be borne by Simeon on the dry ground. But our Lord bare Simeon up openly in the midst of the sea to teach that also on the dry land He supported him secretly.

51. Accordingly, the Son came to the servant; not that the Son might be presented by the servant, but that by the Son the servant might present to His Lord Priesthood and Prophecy, to be laid up with Him. For prophecy and priesthood, which were given through Moses, were handed down, both of them, and reached to Simeon. For he was a pure vessel, who sanctified himself that he might be like Moses, capable for both of them. There are small vessels which are capable for great gifts. There are gifts for which one is capable, by reason of their. grace; yet many are not capable for them, by reason of their greatness.

Thus, then, Simeon presented our Lord, and in Him offered both these things; so that that which was given to Moses in the wilderness, was received from Simeon in the Temple. But seeing that our Lord is the vessel wherein all fullness dwells, when Simeon was offering Him before God, he poured over Him as a drink-offering those two gifts, priesthood from His hands and prophecy from His lips. Priesthood continued to oil the hands of Simeon, because of his purifications; and prophecy dwelt in operation upon his lips, because of revelations. When then these two powers saw Him who was Lord of both, they two united together and poured themselves into the vessel that was capable of both; that could contain priesthood and kingdom and prophecy.

That Infant then, who was wrapped in swaddling clothes, because of His graciousness, clothed Himself in priesthood and prophecy because of His Majesty. For Simeon clothed Him in these, and gave Him to her who had wrapped Him in swaddling clothes. For when he gave Him to His mother, he gave along with Him the priesthood; and when he prophesied to her concerning Him, This Child is set for the fall and rising again, he gave prophecy also with Him.

52. Then Mary received her firstborn and went forth. He was outwardly wrapped in swaddling clothes, but secretly He was clothed with prophecy and priesthood. Whatsoever then was handed down from Moses, was received from Simeon, but continued and was possessed by the Lord of both. So then the steward first, and the treasurer lastly, handed over the keys of priesthood and prophecy to Him who has authority over the treasurer of them both.

Therefore, His Father gave Him the spirit not by measure, because all measures of the spirit are under his hand. And that our Lord might show that He received the keys from the former stewards, He said to Simeon [Simon Peter]: To thee I will give the keys of the doors. But how should He have given them to another, had He not received them from another? So, then, the keys which He had received from Simeon the priest, them He gave to another Simeon the Apostle; that even though the People had not hearkened to the former Simeon, the Gentiles might hearken to the latter Simeon.

53. But because John also was the treasurer of baptism, the Lord of the stewardship came to him to receive from him the keys of the house of reconciliation. For John used to wash away in common water the blemishes of sins; that bodies might become meet for the garment of the Spirit, given by our Lord. Therefore, because the Spirit was with the Son, He came to John to receive from him baptism, that He might mingle with the visible waters the invisible Spirit; that they whose bodies should feel the moistening of the water, their souls should feel the gift of the Spirit; that even as the bodies outwardly feel the pouring of the water upon them, so the souls inwardly may feel the pouring of the Spirit upon them.

Accordingly, even as our Lord when He was baptised, was clothed in baptism and carried baptism with Him, so also when He was presented in the Temple, He put on prophecy and priesthood, and went forth bearing the purity of the priesthood upon His pure members, and bearing the words of prophecy in His wondrous ears. For when Simeon was sanctifying the body of the Child who sanctifies all, that body received the priesthood in its sanctification. And again, when Simeon was prophesying over Him, prophecy quickly entered the hearing of the Child, For if John leaped in the womb and perceived the voice of the Mother of our Lord, how much more should our Lord have heard in the Temple? For lo! it was because of Him that John knew so as to hear in the womb.

54. Accordingly, each one of the gifts that was stored up for the Son, He gathered from their true tree. For He received baptism from the Jordan, even though John still after Him used to baptise. And He received priesthood from the Temple, even though Annas the High Priest exercised it. And again, He received prophecy which had beets handed down amongst the righteous, even though by it Caiaphas in mockery platted a crown for our Lord, and He received the kingdom from the house of David, even though Herod held the place and exercised it.

55. This is He Who flew and came down from on high; and when all those gifts which He had given to those of old time saw Him, they came flying from every quarter and rested on Him their Giver. For they gathered themselves together from every side, to come and be grafted into their natural tree. For they had been grafted into hitter trees, namely into wicked kings and priests. Therefore they hastened to come to their sweet parent-stock; namely to the Godhead Who in sufficiency came down to the people of Israel, that the parts of Him might be gathered to Him. And when He received of them that which was His own, that which was not His own was rejected; since for the sake of His own He had borne also with that which was not His own. For He bore with the idolatry of Israel, for the sake of His priesthood; and He bore with its diviners, for the sake of His prophets; and He bore with its wicked dominion, for the sake of His holy crown.

56. But when our Lord took to Himself Priesthood from them, He sanctified by it all the Gentiles. And again, when He took to Himself prophecy, He revealed by it His couusels to all nations. And when he wove His crown, He bound the strong One who takes all men captive, and divides his spoils. These gifts were barren, with the fig-tree, which while it was barren of fruit made barren such glorious powers as these. Therefore as being without fruit, it was cut off, that these gifts might pass forth from it and bring forth fruit abundantly among all the Gentiles.

57. So He, Who came to make our bodies abodes for His indwelling, passed by all those dwelling-places. Let each one of us then be a dwelling-place for Him Who loves me. Let us come to Him and make our abode with Him. This is the Godhead Whom though all creation cannot contain, yet a lowly and humble soul suffices to receive Him.

Presentation of Jesus: From a sermon by Saint Sophronius
Let us receive the light whose brilliance is eternal.

In honour of the divine mystery that we celebrate today, let us all hasten to meet Christ. Everyone should be eager to join the procession and to carry a light.

Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes 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.

The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.

The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows; the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.

The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.

Through Simeon's eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honour.

Simeon is Open to The Lord's Action

by Pope John Paul II

He invites us to look at the merciful action of God who pours out the Spirit on his faithful in order to bring his mysterious plan of love to fulfillment

1. In the episode of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, St Luke emphasizes Jesus' messianic destiny. The immediate purpose of the Holy Family's journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem according to the Lucan text was to fulfil the law:

"And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, 'Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord'), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, 'a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.'" (Lk 2:22-24)

With this act, Mary and Joseph show their intention of faithfully obeying God's will, rejecting every kind of privilege. Their coming to the temple in Jerusalem has the significance of a consecration to God in the place where he is present.

Obliged by her poverty to offer turtledoves or pigeons, Mary in fact gives the true Lamb who would redeem humanity, thus anticipating what was prefigured in the ritual offerings of the old law.

2. While the law required the purification after birth of the mother alone, Luke speaks of the "time for their purification" (2:22), intending perhaps to indicate together the prescriptions involving both the mother and the firstborn Son.

The term "purification" can surprise us, because it is referred to a Mother who had been granted, by a singular grace, to be immaculate from the first moment of her existence, and to a Child who was totally holy. However, it must be remembered that it was not a question of purifying the conscience from some stain of sin, but only of reacquiring ritual purity which, according to the ideas of the time, may be harmed by the simple fact of birth without there being any form of guilt.

The Evangelist uses the occasion to stress the special link existing between Jesus, as "first-born" (Lk 2:7, 23) and God's holiness, as well as to indicate the spirit of humble offering which motivated Mary and Joseph (cf. Lk 2:24). In fact, the "two turtledoves or two young pigeons" (Lv 12:8), was the offering of the poor.

3. In the temple, Joseph and Mary meet Simeon, "righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel" (Lk 2:25).

Simeon was inspired by the Holy Spirit

The Lucan narrative says nothing of his past or of the service he carried out in the temple; it tells of a deeply religious man who nurtures great desires in his heart and awaits the Messiah, the consolation of Israel. In fact, "the Holy Spirit was upon him" and "it had been revealed to him ... that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ" (Lk 2:25-26). Simeon invites us to look at the merciful action of God who pours out the Spirit on his faithful to bring to fulfillment his mysterious project of love.

Simeon, a man who is open to God's action, "inspired by the Spirit" (Lk 2:27), goes to the temple where he meets Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Taking the Child in his arms, he blesses God and says, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word" (Lk 2:29).

Simeon uses an Old Testament phrase to express the joy he experiences on meeting the Messiah and feels that the purpose of his life has been fulfilled; he can therefore ask the Most High to let him depart in peace to the next world.

Joseph and Mary present Saviour of all mankind

In the episode of the Presentation we can glimpse the meeting of Israel's hope with the Messiah. We can also see in it a prophetic sign of man's encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit makes it possible by awakening in the human heart the desire for this salvific meeting and by bringing it about.

Nor can we neglect the role of Mary who gives the Child to the holy old man Simeon. By divine will, it is the Mother who gives Jesus to mankind.

4. In revealing the Savior's future, Simeon refers to the prophecy of the "Servant" sent to the chosen people and to the nations. To him the Lord says, "I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations" (Is 42:6). And again: "'It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Is 49:6).

In his canticle, Simeon reverses the perspective and puts the stress on the universality of Jesus' mission: "For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32).

How can we fail to marvel at these words? "And his father and mother marveled at what was said about him" (Lk 2:33). But this experience enabled Joseph and Mary to understand more clearly the importance of their act of offering: in the temple of Jerusalem they present the One who, being the glory of his people, is also the salvation of all mankind.

Source: L'Osservatore Romano, 18/25 December 1996, page 9

A Dramatic Moment That Almost Everyone Missed

By: Msgr. Charles Pope, Catholic Archdiocese of Washington

Joseph and Mary have ascended to Jerusalem to fulfill two ancient mandates: the Rite of Purification for a woman after childbirth and the Rite of Presentation of their firstborn male child, Jesus. These rites set the stage for a dramatic moment in Biblical history, a moment missed by almost everyone. We shall explore this dramatic moment shortly but first a little background.

Jewish law considered that, after a woman gave birth she became ritually impure for a period.

While this seems unjust to us, the Jewish notion was rooted in the flow of blood that occurred in childbirth and just about anyone who came in contact with blood incurred a ritual uncleanness for a period of time. The Book of Leviticus has this to say regarding a woman who has given birth:

The LORD said to Moses,

"Say to the Israelites: 'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding. " 'When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood." 'These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.' " (Lev 12:1-8).

As you can see, there is a fairly negative concept at work here from a modern viewpoint. A woman becomes ritually unclean by giving birth. This was due not to birth per se but to the flow of blood and/or other fluids at birth. Even more distressing to modern notions is that a woman who gave birth to a daughter was considered ritually unclean for even longer! Alas, it is well that the power of the Church to bind and loose has freed us from this thinking. Keep in mind that this was ceremonial law, not moral law and, hence, the Church is not setting aside immutable moral law in abrogating such notions of ritual impurity.

Obedient to the Law

Nevertheless Joseph and Mary, obedient to law make the dramatic ascent to the Temple, the Son of God carried in Mary's arms. It is forty days since the birth of the Lord in fulfillment of the Law. As they ascend the glorious steps to the Temple Mount they also fulfil another requirement of the Law:

You are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb.

All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.' (Ex 13:12-15)

Hence we have two simultaneous feasts commemorated today: the Feast of the Purification of Mary, and the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus. As Scripture records:

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord" and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: "a pair of doves or two young pigeons." (Luke 2:22-24)

But something even more dramatic takes place here.

To understand what it is, let's look back to 587 BC.

The Babylonians had invaded Jerusalem and the unthinkable had happened. The Holy City was destroyed and, along with it, the Temple of God. Inside the Temple something even more precious than the building had been housed: the Ark of the Covenant.

Recall what the Ark of Covenant was in the Old Testament. It was a box of Acacia wood, covered in gold. Inside it were placed: the two tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments. Also in it was the staff of Aaron, and a vile of the Manna. More importantly, in this box, this ark, dwelt the very Presence of God in Israel. God mysteriously dwelt within, much as is the case today in our understanding of the tabernacle in our Catholic Churches.

The Lost Ark

Incredibly however, the Ark was lost when the Babylonians destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 587 BC. It was never found again. Some thought Jeremiah had hid it in the Mountains, others that the priests had hastily hid it in the maze of caves beneath the Temple Mount. Others argue it was taken to Ethiopia. But in the end, the Ark had gone missing.

Empty Temple

When the Temple was rebuilt some eighty years later, the Holy of Holies was restored but the Ark was missing. The High Priest still performed the yearly ritual and entered the Holy of Holies, but the room was empty. Some argued for a spiritual presence in the Temple, but in fact the Ark and the certain presence of God were missing in the Temple after 587 BC. The Ark was never found and returned there. Something, someone, was missing. The very Holy of Holies was an empty room, the Ark, and the presence of God it carried were missing: the Ark, the mercy seat, gone. Would it ever be found? Would it ever be returned to the Temple? Would the Holy Presence of God ever find its way to the Temple again?

The ascent to Jerusalem is a steep one.

The mountains surround Jerusalem and the City sits up at a higher altitude than the area around it. As the ancient Jews made the climb they sang the psalms of ascent: Psalms 120-134. As Joseph and Mary ascended they too sang the words that instilled joy: I Lift up mine eye to the mountains from whence cometh my help (121)…..I rejoiced when they said to me let us go up to the House of the Lord (122)…..To you O Lord I have lifted my eyes (123)….Like Mount Zion are those who trust in the Lord (125)….Out of the depths I call unto you O Lord! (130)…..Let us enter God's dwelling, let us worship at the Lord's footstool. Arise O Lord and enter your dwelling place, You and the Ark of your strength! (132)….Come and bless the Lord, You who stand in the House of the Lord Lift your hands to the Sanctuary and bless the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion (134).

Singing these songs, Mary carried Jesus. The climb was even more difficult carrying a newborn babe. But the burden was sweet. A final ascent up the stairs to the Temple Mount. Likely they entered on the southern side through the Huldah gates. Going up the steep stairs, through the tunnel in the walls and emerging on to the bright Temple platform above.

God had returned to His Temple.

He, and the Ark who carried him, were found. Mary the Ark, carrying Jesus in her arms. Jesus, very God, true God from True God. Yes, God and the Ark had been found and God was once again present among His people on the Temple Mount. Scripture says:

And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his Temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? (Mal 3:1-2)

What a dramatic moment. And yet what a remarkable understatement by God!

If I were to direct the moment I would have called for trumpet blasts, peals of thunder and multitudes of angels! And everyone would fall to their knees in recognition of the great fulfillment and the great return of God to his Temple.

Yet, it would seem only an elderly Man and woman took any note at all: Simeon and Anna.

They alone understood they were in the presence of greatness and beheld the drama of the moment:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother:

"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."

There was also a prophetess, Anna…Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2)

Yes, here was the dramatic moment awaited for centuries. The ark of God was found (Mary), and God (Jesus) returned to his temple. But only a few noticed. Just a few understood and celebrated.

And what of us?

At every Mass Jesus, God himself is present. Yet how many notice? Do they really see him? Or do they see only the human priest and the human elements of the Mass. Do you see? Do you notice? Are you Simeon? Anna? Mary? Joseph? Or are you just among those on the Temple Mount who miss the dramatic moment of God with us?

The Light that Enlightens Every Man

by Jeffrey S. J. Allan

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Jesus certainly desired to grasp firmly His Humanity by taking our humanity upon Himself and willfully accepting all the joys and sorrows associated with being human with the exception of committing sin, but nevertheless would take our sins upon Himself. His most holy Mother, attuned to the will of God in an extraordinary way, in a sense makes this decision for Jesus, since He is but an Infant. Speaking in terms of His Divine Person and Nature, circumcision is completely unnecessary for Him.

The exegete, Nicholas of Lyra, suggests that circumcision is how Jesus manifests the reality of His Humanity. He also explains that as God, Jesus instituted circumcision, and therefore undergoing this process Himself, demonstrates His approval of it; and for our Lady and Saint Joseph, this was necessary according to the law which they knew so well. There is a mysterious level of humility here as well: as an Infant, He is incapable of making decisions, but as God He accepts upon Himself a procedure that is unnecessary – in other words, He makes Himself subject to His own law.

Our Blessed Lady also accepts upon herself the ritual of Purification, which for her is unnecessary. Saint Lawrence Justinian in a homily on the Purification points out that Mary was raised above the law by extraordinary grace, but her humility subjected her to it.

The poverty of the Holy Family is intimated in the Gospel account of the Presentation because turtledoves and pigeons was the offering of the economically poorer classes.

Simeon, thought to be a Jewish priest, witnesses first hand the embodiment of the consolation of Israel, the long-awaited Messiah. Simeon holds Jesus, given to him by His holy Mother. At Mass, a priest holds Him at the altar, given to him by the power of ordination and the words of Consecration through holy Mother Church.

In Simeon's Nunc Dimittis, which the Church prays during her Night Prayer, there is an air of "it doesn't get any better than this" in that prayer, considering that Simeon was now prepared to die. But it did get better than that. Simeon was able to hold Jesus and see Him; but through the Eucharist we get to receive Him into our souls. Still, there is much we can learn from Simeon's disposition: if he was prepared to die at the sight of Jesus, how much joy should we have in receiving Him? If Simeon had the opportunity to stand in line waiting to receive Holy Communion, the wait would probably have made him antsy with anticipation. Are we? Jesus offers us Himself, our salvation, the Light and the glory of the Church. Isn't this our highlight of the day or week?

It is fitting on this day to read at least some of the words of Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem. He was a seventh-century Patriarch of Jerusalem, but before his hierarchal appointment, he was a monk of great simplicity and he was also a theologian. He was born in Damascus and thus was of Arabian descent, but was often referred to as a Sophist because of his skills with the Greek language. Here is a piece of his homily which perhaps starts out by suggesting an interior dispostion in that we "run to Christ."

We all run to Christ, we who sincerely and profoundly adore His mystery; we set out towards Him full of joy, carrying lighted candles, as a symbol of His divine splendour.

Thanks to Him all creation is radiant; in truth it is inundated by an eternal light which dissipates the shadows of evil and makes the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of His eternal light. But let these lighted candles be especially the symbol of the eternal splendour with which we wish to prepare ourselves for our meeting with Christ. Indeed, just as His Mother, the most pure Virgin, carried Him in her arms, Who is the true light, and showed Him to all who find themselves in darkness, so may we also, who hold in our hands this light that is visible to all, and who are illuminated by its shining, hasten to go to meet Him, Who is the true light.

The Dayspring from on High has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through Him. The light that enlightens every man who comes into the world, has come. All together we come to Christ, to let ourselves be clothed with His splendour and, together with the old man Simeon, welcome Him, the eternal living light. With him we exult with joy and sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, Father of light, Who sent us the true light to lead us out of darkness and make us luminous.

Through Simeon's eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which He prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.

By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as He came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God Incarnate, and because we have seen Him present among us and have mentally received Him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in His honour.

Source: Secret Harbor - Portus Secretioris

Story of Anna: Can Hopes Come True At Christmas?

by Mark Adams

Scripture: Luke 2:36-40

Among my favorite books are C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. I have read them and re-read them several times. These little books were intended for children but they contain volumes of truth that will encourage and entertain readers of all ages. In this series of fantasy stories, Lewis introduces us to four children who find their way into a wondrous land through the back of a magical wardrobe in their uncle's house. It is called Narnia and it is a kingdom where animals talk and where Kings and Queens govern from tower-filled castles.

In one of the stories, C. S. Lewis reminds us why Christmas is so special. At this time of year we celebrate the truth that there is hope! The True King has been born! And today I want us to read of a godly woman named Anna who held onto the hope that Jesus would be born for over a century. By examining her life I think we too will understand how hopes can come true at Christmas.

Take your Bibles and turn to Luke chapter 2. We'll start reading with verse 36. Joseph and Mary have just brought Jesus to the temple forty days after His birth to be dedicated and on the way out they are greeted by two senior adults who recognize Jesus as God's Messiah. One of these is Simeon and the other is Anna. Follow along as we read this brief account of her involvement in the Christmas story….

Luke 2:36-40

36 - There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

37 - and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.

38 - Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 - When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth.

40 - And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

Well, based on these five verses, if we were to ask Anna this question: "Can hopes come true at Christmas?" What would she say? I think she would answer, "Yes they can! But there are two things we must remember." And the first is this. Hopes CAN come true at Christmas if…

1. …..We remain YOUNG AT HEART

You know all of us age physically and when the aging process begins to make itself known many of us have a tough time accepting it. For decades we worry about everything BUT getting old. Out of all the things we couldn't count on in life, there was one thing we could and that was our youth. Remember when you could eat like a horse and not look like one…when all the school teachers were older than you….when professional athletes were about the same age as your older brother? We were young and it seemed we would always be that way.

But then certain things in life began to happen that reminded us that we are not immortal. Our children are suddenly taller than we are and they have never heard of James Taylor or Neil Diamond. The girl who takes your order at MacDonalds calls you "SIR". You notice that you squint a lot when trying to read your exit sign on I-270….by the way I had to get bi-focals this week…can you imagine that? A young man like me?!

As you get older it seems that everything hurts-and what doesn't hurt doesn't work. Your parents begin acting like children. Your smile lines don't go away when you stop smiling. We all age. All of us grow old physically-but that does not mean that life comes to an end. We don't stop living just because our bodies start to decline. Youth is an attitude of the mind not a condition of the body. When he was 78 General Douglas MacArthur said, "Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul."

In Jesus said, "Whoever tries to keep his life safe will lose it, and the man who is prepared to lose his life will preserve it." In this text Jesus is saying that there are two ways to view life: protect it or pursue it. You can build a fire in the hearth, and stay inside-warm and dry and safe during your golden years. Or you can hear the voice of adventure….God's adventure and follow it! And there is no greater excitement and fulfillment! So instead of building a fire in your hearth, build a fire in your heart. The wisest people are not the ones with the most years in their lives but the most LIFE in their years! Our goal in life should not be to live long but to LIVE!

And we really begin to live when we commit to follow God's impulses….no matter how physically old we are. As Max Lucado says, "Just because you're near the top of the hill doesn't mean you've passed your peak." Your last chapters can be your best. Your final song can be your greatest. It could be that all of your life has prepared you for a grand exit.

God's oldest followers have always been among His choicest.

  • Moses did his greatest work when he was over 80.

  • Old and mellow Abraham was much wiser than young and brash Abram.

  • Caleb conquered the fortified mountain cities of Judah when he was 85.

  • And John, the apostle John, surely his final years would have been quiet and restful. Surely when he reached 80, John had done all he came to do on this earth. Nope….John had one more chapter to write. Because of his faith in Jesus, he was exiled to the Isle of Patmos. But what was intended to be an island of isolation turned into an island of inspiration. In his final years, John wrote the last book of the Bible. His last years were some of his best because he remained young at heart….that is he remained open to God's call to adventure.

And, by the way, what about Anna? Some of the Bible translators have gingerly handled the age of Anna by translating verse 36 as, "She was advanced in her years greatly." Now referring to Anna in this way is being polite. And we all know, of course, that it is never prudent to refer to an elderly woman as an "old lady" or an "old woman." Well, you may have noticed that the New International Version sets tactfulness aside, and just blurts out, "She was very old."

And old she was. Biblical scholars have estimated her age at perhaps 104 to 105 years old. She had been married for 7 years and then had been a widow for 84 years. An accurate reading of verse 37 would go like this, "and then she was a widow FOR 84 years…" So if she married at the then customary age of 13 or 14 and you add 7 years of marriage and 84 years of widowhood you get a total of 104 or 105 years AT LEAST. But Anna didn't live the golden years of her life in safety….warming her hands by some fire as she sat in a rocking chair. No! She was a busy lady.

When her husband died she didn't give into despair but, instead, began a new life of working and waiting for the long-hoped-for Messiah. For 84 years she hoped and believed the impossible would happen…that God's promised Redeemer would come. And she didn't just sit around twiddling her thumbs as she waited. She was a career woman…a prophetess of God. Her job description would read, "spokesperson for the truths of God. Foreteller of the future." Well God had hired the right person in Anna! She busily stuck with the job until she saw it's completion. Verse 37 says "She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying." She loved her Lord and as it says in, "LOVE always HOPES."

Anna was young at heart….she believed her hope would come true and it did.

And you know what? I think her hope kept her young! It was a factor in her longevity. There's an old poem that goes like this,

"You are as young as your faith--as old as your doubt;
as young as your self-confidence--as old as your fear;
as young as your hope--as old as your despair."

In the central place of everyone's heart there is a "recording chamber." As long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, and courage - you remain young. But when you allow your heart to be covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then and only then do you grow old…and then, as the old ballad says, you just fade away.

Robert Browning said, "Grow old along with me…the BEST is yet to be…the last of life for which the first was made!" Our final years can be the best….the times when our hopes DO come true as long as we follow God's leading! So I believe Anna would advise us to remain young at heart! And then the other thing Anna would tell us is this…..your hopes can come true….

2. …If we put our hopes in the right PERSON

Anna built her life on the hope of the coming Messiah as described in scripture but she was in the minority. Now, it wasn't that other people in Israel didn't expect a Messiah. As this year's cantata so clearly communicated, a majority of the people of Israel hoped God would send His promised deliverer but they put their hope in the wrong kind of deliverer.

The Pharisees for example, believed a great celestial champion would some day come to earth. He would be another king of David's line who would revive all the glories of the past and free them from Roman bondage and restore the people of Israel as the true masters of the world.

On the other hand, The Essenes, the teachers of that day, were looking for someone like Moses to come and teach the law.

But there were also a small group of Hebrews who were known as THE QUIET IN THE LAND. They had no dreams of violence and of power and of armies with banners….or of some great messianic law giver. They knew that would be a suffering servant who would "….take our infirmities and sorrows upon Himself…" and that He would be… "….PIERCED for our transgressions, CRUSHED for our iniquities, oppressed and afflicted… …led like a lamb to the slaughter, assigned a grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death though He had done no violence nor was any deceit in His mouth."

Well, these QUIET ONES devoted their lives to the study of the scriptures, constant prayer, and quiet watchfulness until the true Messiah would come. They believed God's promise in when He said, "…those who diligently seek Me will find Me." And as a result, they reaped an incredible benefit…..for as the psalmist says, God…. "…teaches the humble His ways…"

Well, Simeon was a member of this group as was Anna. They put their hope in the kind of Messiah that scripture foretold…..not a RULER of the people of Israel but a REDEEMER of all mankind. The word used here in verse 38 for "redemption" means "to buy again" and it is found throughout Scripture. It is primarily used to describe the act of freeing a slave.

Now there are various Greek words used in the Bible for to depict redemption. One term used is "agorazo" meaning "to be bought in the marketplace." And in the days of the early church there were about 60,000,000 slaves in the Roman Empire…so, about two thirds of the entire population understood this word first hand. People were taken to a slave market and auctioned off in the marketplace. Most of them lived their whole lives in slavery.

There is, however, another word for redemption," "exagorazo" and it is used in verse 38 and means "to be bought out of the marketplace….never to be sold there again." Anna used this word to describe Jesus' life work. She knew that the people redeemed by the Messiah would be bought out of slavery to sin never to be sold into it again. And--since Anna had her eyes and ears tuned by scripture and prayer, when the true Messiah showed up, she saw Him and recognized Him. She put her hope in the right kind of Messiah-so she saw what others missed because of their spiritual myopia.

A gem dealer was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He carefully looked it over, and then as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "You want $15 for this?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn't as pretty as the others in the bin, said, "I'll take $10 for it." The dealer paid the $10 and hurriedly took the stone to an appraiser, who appraised the 1,905 carat sapphire at $2.28 million dollars.

This dealer knew what to look for and so he saw priceless value in a hunk of rock that others missed.

Well Anna was like this dealer in the sense that she had the biblical knowledge of what the Messiah would look like and she built her life on that hope. She saw value in that little One snuggled in Mary's arms-value that the religious leaders of that day missed. This contrast in perceptions is what Peter wrote about in picturing Christ as a rock…a stone used by builders, "Now to you who believe, this stone is precious……But to those who do not believe, it causes men to stumble and is a rock that makes them fall.'"

For Christmas to have it's full meaning to you and me, and in order for us to experience the hope that it brings, we must see the baby Jesus as He really is…our promised Redeemer…, someone to build our life and hopes upon.

In his book, 'The Jesus I Never Knew', Philip Yancey writes,

"When the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci went to China in the 16th century, he brought along samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it. The Chinese readily adopted portraits of the Virgin Mary holding her child, but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain that the God-child had grown up only to be executed, the audience reacted with revulsion and horror. They much preferred the Virgin and insisted on worshiping her rather than the crucified God."

And you know many people are just as picky when it comes to worshiping the true Christ of Christmas. They enjoy looking down on the babe in the manger….it is pleasant to do so…but they flinch and turn away when they look up to the Christ of the Cross.

But that baby in the manger should not just be someone we just admire once a year….like we do the babies in the maternity ward. He is our Redeemer…the Son of God and we do much more than admire HIM. We kneel at His feet and give Him our very lives. Yancey writes, "As I thumb through my stack of Christmas cards…..I realize that we observe a mellow, domesticated holiday purged of any hint of scandal. Above all else we purge from it any reminder of how the story began at Bethlehem turned out at Calvary."

When I served on staff at Bethany Baptist Church I remember an interesting discussion at a deacon's meeting in which one of our deacons voiced his opinion that we should not celebrate communion on Christmas Eve. He felt that Christmas was for celebrating Jesus' birth….not His death.

But this man was missing the central truth of Christmas. That baby in that manger that first Christmas night was born to die….Death was the whole purpose of His life. On the night of His birth the angel proclaimed, "Unto you is born this day in the city of David A SAVIOR Who is Christ the Lord." Holman Hunt has painted a famous picture of Jesus. It shows our Lord as a young boy at the door of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth. The setting sun is shining in at the door, and Jesus, has come to the door to stretch His limbs which had grown cramped over the bench. He stands there in the doorway with His arms outstretched….and behind Him, on the wall, the setting sun throws His shadow, and it is the shadow of a cross.

And also in the background there stands Mary, looking at her little boy, and as she sees that shadow there is the fear of coming tragedy in her eyes. Do you remember the warning Simeon gave to Mary as she held the baby Jesus in her arms that day? He said, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your heart too." Last year about this time Tom led our choir in singing Joseph Martin's anthem, Just Beyond the Manger. Listen to the words….

"Just beyond the manger, I hear no lullabies,
I see no golden hay, I feel no starlight.
Just beyond the manger I hear the hammer fall,
I see a rugged cross, I feel the chill of night.
Just beyond the manger, I see no swaddling clothes
I hear no angels sing I feel no candles' glow
Just beyond the manger I see a lonely hill the Savior crying still
I hear the thunder roll….just beyond the manger.
Forgive us Lord and grant us eyes to see in every Christmas, CALVARY.
Implant it in our hearts. Help us recall mid trees of red and gold
That on another tree raised long ago we hung God's brightest Star."

Anna and her fellow believers saw their hopes come true because they put their hopes in the right Person…..God's promised Redeemer. And the fact remains that our world never comes as close to being in contact with its greatest hope as it does at Christmas. So hear this….your hopes can come true this Christmas as well, as long as you follow her example….and build your life on the only hope we have. The hope that Jesus Christ was God's only Son….that He died on Calvary's cross for our sin and rose from the dead.. And then I think Anna would tell us one more thing….

3. Hope is something you SHARE…

Verse 38 says that once Anna discovered that Jesus was indeed the Christ, she "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." Luke tells us that she began to share her hope "the very moment" that she discovered the Christ child. So, her first reaction to seeing Jesus was to command her century-old body to turn and run as she went from person to person sharing the unbelievably good news that the long-awaited Messiah had finally been born. Anna knew that hope is something you don't keep to yourself. It is something you share, especially when this hope is based on the Good News of Jesus' birth. says that Christians should "always be ready to share the reason for their hope." You see without Christ mankind lives in fear….fear of death….and…fear of life. We wander through life without purpose or direction.

Jesus said that without Him we are like "sheep without a shepherd." We also live in fear of God….Colossians says that without Christ we are "….enemies of God and cut off from Him." We were designed to know God and to relate to Him intimately but our sin separates us from Him. In fact sums the situation all up by saying that non- Christians live in fear "WITHOUT any real hope in the world." But because of Christ's birth we no longer need fear death…We don't have to walk through life afraid--bereft of God's loving guidance. For, as the lyrics to the old Christmas Carol say, "The HOPES and FEARS of all the years are met in THEE tonight!" Do you remember what that angel proclaimed to the shepherds? He said, "Do not fear…I bring GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY for all people." You know, to the unsaved-to people who do not know Christ personally, hope is nothing more than mental fantasy, like Jiminy Cricket wishing upon a star.

It's the kind of Disneyland hope that says, "I sure HOPE I win the lottery." "I hope my boy comes home some day." "I hope everything works out OK." This is not real hope….it is wishful thinking. But those of us who have accepted the Christ as our Lord and Savior have been promised a LIVING HOPE through His life, death, and resurrection. This IS GOOD NEWS! And Good news is for sharing! You know when I was a kid the first thing I did on Christmas morning was open my presents and the second thing I did was go to my friends and tell them what I got. I couldn't wait to share my good fortune with my peers. And age hasn't changed that much.

I still want to tell people about the wonderful gifts I receive on Christmas. In 1979 Sue and I celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife by driving from Louisville, Kentucky to Dover, Delaware so that we could spend the holidays with our families. On Christmas-eve I opened a huge present at my in-laws house and inside was the gift that all truly "young at heart" people wanted on Christmas morning in 1979….an ATARI 2600 game system. I was ecstatic! I even received the new "high tech" games….ASTEROIDS and SPACE INVADERS! And when we returned to seminary a week later, the first thing I did was call my seminary friend, BILL RATLIFF to tell him the great news of the unbelievable gift I had received that Christmas and you know what….his in-laws got him an ATARI too!

When you receive a wonderful gift your first impulse is to share the news with someone. Well at Christmas we celebrate because as it says in in sending Jesus God has given us an "….indescribable gift!" My point is that good news is something we share! Especially when it is the good news of Jesus' birth. So all Christians should, "Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born!"

If you are here this morning and haven't put your hope in the right Person….the Christ of Bethlehem, then I pray as did the Apostle Paul, "…that the eyes of your heart may be opened so that you may know what is the HOPE of His calling, …what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe." Because you know Christmas is so much more than songs and good feelings and beautiful liturgies and nice presents and big dinners.

Christmas is saying "YES" to something beyond all seasonal emotions and feelings. Christmas is saying "YES" to a hope based on God's initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel. Won't you say "YES" to this hope today? Perhaps as a Christian you need to commit to being more young at heart….to following God's leading into some mission adventure. Or maybe today God is asking you to recommit yourself to sharing the good news of Jesus' birth.

[Editor's Note: Sermon was edited due to space constraints.]

© 2014. Redland Baptist Church

Hymn: Canticle of Symeon by Michael Joncas
Lord, keep our daily course from tears,
safeguard us from night's darkest fears,
that, now with Christ, our watch not cease,
until at length we rest in peace.

Dismiss your servant now in peace,
my eyes have seen your saving light:
a brightness showing all the earth
the fullness of your people's worth.

Praise Father, Son and Spirit blest,
whose saving works and words attest
to love that passed through death's great strife:
our hope secured in risen life.

"Canticle of Simeon" by Michael Joncas;
Text: Leo Tibesar based on Luke, 2:29-32

For More Articles on Mayaltho
Malankara World Journal Issue 123 was Themed: Ma'altho and Song of Simon. It has several articles that is of interest. You can read the issue here:

REGULAR COLUMNS

Health: Tips for Indulging Your Taste Buds While on a Diet
It's hard to stick to a low-calorie diet day after day to lose weight, but new research shows you don't have to, says Dr. Susie Rockway, a veteran nutritional and biochemical expert in the U.S. health industry.

"Recent studies show you can lose 10 to 30 pounds in eight weeks through alternate-day fasting," she says. "Every other day, dieters in the study ate only lunch - no breakfast or dinner - between noon and 2 p.m. The following day, they could eat whatever they wanted. Not only did they not 'gorge' as expected on the feed days, most had an easier time sticking with it."

Dieting is as much about the mind as it is about the body, and most people have a difficult time staying with any sort of very strict regimen, says Sebastien Hebbelinck, a 20-year-plus veteran of the nutraceutical industry.

In the alternate day fast studies conducted by Dr. Krista Varady of the University of Illinois at Chicago, participants on average consumed only 110 percent of their energy needs on feed days, Rockway says. Lunch on fast days was 400 to 500 calories for women and 500 to 600 calories for men.

Hebbelinck, the CEO of Apax Business Development offers these other suggestions for indulging your taste buds while losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight:

Eat your bigger meals earlier in the day.

Avoiding large meals at dinnertime is effective in helping to lose weight, particularly abdominal fat. In fact, another fasting study -- presented at this year's American Diabetes Association conference - showed that dieters who ate big meals at breakfast and lunch and skipped dinner lost more weight than participants who ate six small meals a day.

Don't belly up to the buffet bar.

Whether it's a cheat meal or a cheat day, throw all those studies out the window if you gorge on huge quantities of food. Eat controlled portions of healthy, nutritious foods. You can enjoy a nice lunch with a glass of wine and even a dessert, but don't go back for seconds and don't order the Decadent Chocolate-for-Four if you have no plans to share!

Rockway adds the following tips based on her nutritional and biochemical expertise.

Include plenty of fiber and water (stay hydrated!).

Unlike most nutrients in foods, we don't absorb fiber. It passes through our digestive tract, and if it's soluble fiber, it can help us feel full since it forms viscous gels. High-fiber foods include legumes, beans, avocadoes, nuts, whole fruits (versus juice), and whole-grain foods such as whole wheat spaghetti. On a cheat day, you may splurge on a higher fat hamburger or fries, which case this is the perfect time to take a fiber-rich fat-binding supplement such as Lineatabs before the meal to help prevent some of the excess fats from being absorbed. Rockway likes Lineatabs because, unlike other fat-binding supplements, it dissolves in water and is consumed as a beverage, making the fiber soluble in the stomach and immediately available to bind to fats. It then forms a viscous fiber in the small intestines to form a barrier to reduce absorption. AND you get the fluid your body needs!!

Healthy eating:

Plan meals that are higher in lean protein and lower in simple carbohydrates. This will help you avoid a sugar spike that will leave you feeling hungry soon afterward. It also stabilizes your insulin levels, and protein foods are the most satiating. If you are satisfied after you eat, you will be less likely to snack later. Some great high-protein choices include turkey or chicken breast, pork loin chop, tuna and salmon and whey protein shakes. Avoid foods high in simple carbs, such as syrups, soft drinks and jams.

About Dr. Susie Rockway, Ph.D., C.N.S. & Sebastien Hebbelinck:

Dr. Susie Rockway, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a veteran nutritional and biochemical expert and health industry expert. Rockway has worked for multiple companies in executive capacities, including as an executive director of product development, a director of research, and a manager for science developing health and wellness products, where she communicated nutrition and new science updates to consumers.

Sebastien Hebbelinck has been active in the nutraceutical industry for more than two decades. He is the founder and CEO of Apax Business Development, a 21-year-old company that has experienced major success in Europe with the dietary supplement Lineatabs.  

Family Special: Replacing My Cravings

by Lysa TerKeurst

"Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation."
Psalm 5:1-3 (NIV)

I rolled over and looked at the clock. Another day. Beyond all reason and rationality, I slid out of bed and stripped off everything that might weigh even the slightest ounce as I headed to the scale.

I thought, "Maybe today will be the day the scale will be my friend and not reveal my secrets. Maybe somehow overnight the molecular structure of my body shifted and today I will magically weigh less."

I yanked out my ponytail holder - hey, it's gotta weigh something - and decided to try again. But the scale didn't change its mind the second time. It was not my friend this day.

Vowing to do better, eat healthier, and make good choices, I headed to the kitchen only to have my resolve melt like the icing on the cinnamon rolls my daughter just pulled from the oven. Oh, who cares what the scale says when this roll speaks such love and deliciousness.

Two and a half cinnamon rolls later, I decided tomorrow would be a much better day to keep my promises to eat healthier. But tomorrow wasn't the day. Or the next. Or the next.

I knew I needed to make changes. Because this wasn't really about the scale or what clothing size I was; it was about this battle that raged in my heart. I thought about, craved, and arranged my life too much around food. So much so, I knew it was something God was challenging me to surrender to His control. Surrender to the point where I'd make changes for the sake of my spiritual health perhaps even more than my physical health.

I had to get honest enough to admit it: I relied on food more than I relied on God. I craved food more than I craved God. Food was my comfort. Food was my reward. Food was my joy. Food was what I turned to in times of stress, sadness, and even in times of happiness.

I knew this battle would be hard. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn't part of my healthy eating plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot.

Sometimes I wound up on the floor of my closet, praying with tears running down my face. And I gave myself permission to cry, just like the psalmist:

"Give ears to my word, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation." - Psalm 5:1-3

And that is literally what I did each day. Laid my requests before God and waited in expectation.

Then, one morning, it finally happened. I got up and for the first time in a long while, I felt incredibly empowered. I still did the same crazy routine with the scale, no clothes, no ponytail holder. The numbers hadn't changed much, but my heart had. One day of victory tasted better than any of that food I'd given up ever could. I had waited in expectation using prayer as my guide and I did it.

I can't promise you there won't be any more tears. There will. And I can't promise the scale magically drops as quickly as you wish it would. It probably won't. But it will be a start. A really good start.

Dear Lord, You know me so intimately. You know how much I'm struggling right now. Please help me to replace my cravings with a reliance on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

How can you pray through your specific struggle?

Do some research on Scriptures that apply to your situation. Write them down on notecards or make a list in your cell phone. When faced with your struggle, turn it into an opportunity to pray through these Scriptures.

Power Verse:

1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

© 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Source: Encouragement for Today

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