February 2nd: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

Saint Luke begins and ends his nativity narrative in the temple. The temple in Jerusalem was a huge complex set of buildings with hundreds of people living in many of these buildings. The Main building of this complex was of course the temple proper.

This was a large tall rectangular building which was divided by a huge blue curtain/veil embroidered with angels which was 50’ long.  On one side priests would enter daily to ensure: That the Golden Lamp had enough oil to be kept lit at all times; that burning coals and smoking incense be kept rising from the golden altar; and that the unleavened show-bread was replaced weekly.

On the other side of the veil was the Holiest Place of the Temple where the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  This Holiest Place was the only place where God would meet with humans. And it could be entered by a human only once a year and only by the High Priest.  No one else was allowed in under any circumstances under penalty of death.

So, under the Old Covenant, fellowship with God was possible; but limited to one person (the High priest) who represented all the other people.  Now Saint Luke in his Gospel mentions an old holy man named Simeon who lives in the Temple.  And Simeon holds the baby Jesus in his arms and declares that this child will be a light to the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel.  The whole of human history will be transformed by the work of this child.

When Jesus breathed His last breath on the cross, we are told that the large Temple Veil of separation was torn from top to bottom.  The Temple in Jerusalem at that moment was replaced by a new Temple.  Saint John tells us that when the Jews asked for a sign Jesus said; “I will destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews responded, “This temple took forty-six years to build, and you will raise it up in three days?” Saint John explains; “But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered, and they came to believe in the words Jesus had spoken.

By becoming man Jesus, God made Man, now becomes the new Holiest place of God on earth. No longer is access to God limited to the High Priest. Now any and all peoples can come to the Father through Christ; the Cornerstone of this Living Temple!  For over two thousand years this Living Temple, which is the Catholic Church, has been growing and expanding with each new baptism.  On this Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, let ask pray that we may be faithful and active living stones of His Temple here on earth!   Amen.

Fr. Tom