Posted by: Fr Chris | February 2, 2022

Christ our Light- February 2

Every night as the sun sets, Catholics read or sing Vespers. In every ritual Church, Simeon’s prayer is sung, the Nunc Dimittis: Now you shall dismiss your servant, O Lord, according to Your word in peace; a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people, Israel.

Presentation of Christ in Temple Antique Icon, 19th C

As the daylight fades, candles are lit, electric lights are turned on, and the Church focuses on the light of Jesus. Vespers in the Byzantine rite launches the next day; we follow the Jewish and Old Testament practice of evening begins the next day which begins not at midnight but at sunset. So as daylight fades, the True Light illuminates the new day.

Two couples mark the celebration today. They are of different generations, but united in fidelity to worship at the temple and in being obedient to the Law, and to what God has asked of them over time. Joseph and Mary and Simeon and Anna are both couples who represent the anawim of God, the little ones, the people who listen to the Spirit of God and act upon God’s wishes. Simeon and Anna were both very old by the standards of their time period. They probably had outlived everyone they grew up with, but continued to wait for the Messiah in prayer and sacrifice.

Order of the Most Holy Mary Theotokos - Come, Pray the Rosary - The Joyful Mysteries

Joseph and Mary were young, just starting out their married life and now family life. They already had made sacrifices of remaining virginal, of traveling to Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy of the town where the Messiah would be born, of being alone without their parents and friends in such an emotionally and spiritually important time. To redeem Jesus from service as a Levite, they could only afford to sacrifice two birds, being far from home and without Joseph’s carpenter shop producing income.

All four are listening to God regarding this little forty-day old boy. For Mary and Joseph, Simeon’s proclamation and Anna’s preaching are confirmation that they have indeed heard the voice of God. This little baby is not just the messiah, but the holy one of God. The road ahead promises to be difficult: a sword will spiritually pierce Mary’s heart, and Simeon accurately predicts that Jews will be forced to make final decisions regarding Jesus – He will accepted be the messiah, or He will be rejected. Everything will focus on Him and His destiny.

It is a bitterly cold night tonight. The wind is howling out of the mountains, much of North America is at freezing or below freezing temperatures, snow is falling in much of the country. We have a storm that stretches from Vermont to New Mexico and all points in between. But it remains February 2, it remains the feast of the Encounter, of the Meeting of Jesus and His people, the presentation of Christ not just in the temple but to Simeon and Anna who personify the faithful of Israel, the generations and generations of Jews who were waiting patiently for God to send the  messiah. Even though the arrival of the messiah is in the person of a 40-day old infant and not a triumphant general leading an army against pagan Rome, Simeon and Anna are happy. They rejoice, they preach, they sing, they pray, they tell anyone who will listen that salvation is now close at hand.

The light of Christ never goes away. During the Presanctified Liturgy in Great Lent the priest holds a single candle in the doorway of the icon-screen, and that light pierces the darkness. Vespers comes, and the Nunc Dimittis promises that no physical, spiritual, or moral darkness will ever conquer against the true light. He is the light of revelation to the Gentiles – and to all Israel. He is the light of revelation to our souls. He is the light of revelation to our searching hearts. His Church stands firm against all darkness, against all hostility, against all heresy, against all failures of its members.

Tonight, then should be a night of rejoicing. Candles are blessed tonight as a sign that Jesus is the light of the world, as the prayer makes clear. In praying tonight in this liturgy, let the power of the Holy Spirit bring us warmth on this cold winter night, and let the power of Jesus Christ, even as a 40-day old baby, even under the form of a little cube of bread soaked in wine and water, transform us into souls as patient and faithful as Simeon and Anna, and to imitate Joseph and Mary in staying true to what has been handed to us in our Catholic faith.

There will always be attempts by forces of darkness to conquer the light. But the light will never be defeated. Christ is among us.

Shining Candle Flame in a Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 1054350134 | Shutterstock

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