Purification of Our Lady
There was a man named Simeon; this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.
Today’s feast, which is one of light and hope, recalls the historical event of the presentation of the Child Jesus, when he was 40 days old, in the Temple of Jerusalem, as well as the ritual purification of Our Blessed Lady. Both Our Lord and Our Lady submit themselves on this day to a law that did not bind them: Our Lord had not opened her womb, she had not lost any blood, she was not impure in any sense of the term; far from it, for as a liturgical oration tells us, the birth of the Son of God did not tarnish her virginity but made it even more sacred. Both Jesus and Mary give us on this day an admirable example of holy obedience, which is why, when we pray this decade of the Holy Rosary, we ask for the graces of obedience and purity, two virtues which rise or fall together.
St Luke tells us that, on this day, something unexpected happened: a very old man by the name of Simeon met them in the Temple. This man was just, that is to say, he was holy. He loved the law, he observed it, he was truly a devout Jew. The Holy Ghost had inspired him with a great desire to see with his own eyes the Messiah, whom all God-fearing Jews were expecting at that time. His desire and longing for the Christ were so great, and so pleased God that He promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen him. On this particular day, he is moved by the Spirit to go to the Temple, and there he meets the Lord, the King, the Leader of Israel, under the charming appearances of a babe. Simeon cannot resist the interior motion that draws him to the child, he takes Him from His Mother – who must certainly have sensed that this was no ordinary man and could be trusted with such a singular Treasure – , and sings his Nunc Dimittis.
This event is not recounted in detail by the evangelist just to touch our hearts. It contains a very profound lesson: that of ardent desire for God and that of waiting patiently for Him in the dark. Simeon indeed is the model of the Christian soul that longs for God, that is never content until it sees Him face to face. In this sense, he is a great inspiration for us as we pursue our earthly pilgrimage; he prods us on to the desired goal, longing like the deer for the running waters as we pray in psalm 41: As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God. My soul hath thirsted after the strong living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?
Simeon is also the model of souls that must serve the Lord in the dark, amidst trials in the Church and in the world. We began today’s ceremony by blessing candles and carrying them in procession, going out, as it were, to meet the Desired One : this is the great feast of the Encounter. But a candle holds a very profound symbolism: it brings light, light that pierces the dark, and yet remains faint, surrounded by darkness. From this point of view, it is an eloquent image of our role in the present conjuncture. As the darkness grows, as the shadows lengthen, as they penetrate deeper still into the Church through the open windows of failed pastoral initiatives, as the cold that has come in forces untold droves out into the night, the task left for souls truly desirous of seeing the Christ of the Lord and truly intent on remaining firm in the faith until He comes, that task is one of staying put and keeping our candles lit. Until the windows are closed once again, we will be surrounded by darkness and smoke, and strong winds will make our flame to falter: our task is to protect the flame and make sure it does not fail. Many flames are failing today, many lights are going out. At the same time, others are being lit around the world, by souls who will not be contaminated by the ambient culture of death and compromise with evil and heresy. Those souls will keep alive the flame, lest it die out.
Australia has been tormented lately by devastating bushfires. Each one of those fires began with a spark, a tiny flame, and ended up destroying lands and homes. There are periods in history when the flame of faith is kept alive by a small number of souls, a remnant, who truly love God, who are truly ready to wait, patiently, for the return of the dawn. For the dawn will arise one day. Our generation – or should I say my generation – will not see it. But one day it will rise again, and praise will go to those who, like the wise virgins, kept alive the flame, that is, the revealed truth and the practice of virtues : faith, hope, charity, humility, purity…. in the face of a mocking world.
For thus saith the Lord God the Holy One of Israel: If you return and be quiet, you shall be saved: in silence and in hope shall your strength be. (Is 30:15)
May the holy man Simeon inspire us and spur us on as we fight for the faith of all times and the salvation of future generations. Let the world laugh, let deviant Christians mock and tell us to “get with it”. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15), we will keep the flame alive at any cost to ourselves.
Virgin most prudent, Virgin most powerful, Our Lady of Victories, with thee we stand and wait, and we know that we shall not be confounded.