Today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple brings to a close the so-called Incarnation Cycle of feasts. Beginning with the celebration of the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25, this cycle finds it high point in the celebrations of Christ’s Nativity and then in His manifestation to the nations in the Epiphany. Today the Church celebrates that story in the Gospel of Luke when Mary and Joseph fulfill the prescriptions of the Law that required parents of a new-born to be purified and offer sacrifice to God.
We hear that Mary and Joseph offer what the poor could – a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. The Law required the offering of a lamb, but for the poor who could not afford such an offering, the turtle doves or pigeons stood as a replacement. Innocent birds stand in so that the Law can be fulfilled. One writer of the 19th century, Dom Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., reflected: “The blood of guiltless fowl stand in for the life of the One who is Son of God, whose blood — the blood of the Lamb — will flow many years later in the same city of Jerusalem so that eternal redemption for all may be won! Saving grace is pre-figured once more.”
Today’s feast is another of the many that teaches about sacrifice. We must have a willingness to enter into the sacrifice of self by being humble enough to follow God’s Law. In our humanity, we know how humble we must be to follow every aspect of the Law of Love as Jesus did, even to death on a Cross! The candles we bless today light the way in the dark moments of doubt when we may wonder if the sacrifice is necessary and worth it. Christ, the Light of the world, guides our way.