<span style="font-size: 1rem;">The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (often called Candlemas and officially observed on 2nd February) marks the end of the Season of the Incarnation which began way back on Advent Sunday.</span>
Luke tells the story of Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus for Circumcision. For added measure, he adds an entirely separate Rite about Purification. In reality, the former would take place on Day 8 of Jesus’ life and the latter 30 days later. And then, to further mix things up, Luke suggests that Mary and Joseph both underwent purification. Our King James Version of the Bible talks about “her” purification but that is not what the Greek actually says. The long-short version of this is that we are definitely in the Temple and doing religious things.
In the Temple, we also find Simeon (male, there because the Holy Spirit pushed him there) and Anna (female, there because… well, as a widow, she probably had nowhere else to go). In their different ways, they spot this child, these parents, and say what they say. Simeon says Jesus is all he ever hoped for but also that the very existence of Jesus, with all he will go on to be and do, will bring trouble for some. Anna sees Jesus in simpler terms, as being the springboard for hope. Both praise God. Above all, that is the take-away message: whatever is happening, praise God. When we do that, when we focus our whole vision for life on God, we turn away from whatever it is that is causing us anguish. For us, in the midst of this COVID period, the practice of praise (and lament) is no bad habit to form.
Who is missing from this story? Whom would we expect to be milling around the Temple? Who do we meet in other Temple scenes, who clash with Jesus? Answer: the priests, the scribes, the Pharisees. The point is this. The spiritual life, being alert to God, being open to the Holy Spirit, being about to spot God at work in the world, is available to everyone.