The Presentation of the Lord
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. This comes forty days after the child’s birth in Bethlehem. The Feast is the occasion for the annual World Day for Consecrated Life. The liturgical ordo explains:
“The purpose of the day is to help the entire Church to esteem ever more greatly the witness of those persons who have chosen to follow Christ by means of the practice of the evangelical counsels as well as to be a suitable occasion for consecrated persons to renew their commitment and rekindle the fervour which should inspire their offering of themselves to the Lord.”
The quotes are from Saint John Paul II. Those who are not in consecrated life probably wonder about the meaning of the phrase evangelical counsels. You probably realize that Jesuits and other religious live with three basic vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. They are seen as evangelical counsels, the point being that they are rooted in the Gospel teachings of Jesus, advice or counsel that he offered to people.
The three vows are seen as a unity, a means of being totally available for a life of service. Religious life has changed a lot over the centuries, for instance, in the dynamics of community life and the actual ministries we perform. But a grounding in the three vows is essential.
Let’s pray for all religious women and men today. Our educational and healthcare institutions in Canada owe tremendous gratitude to the sisters, brothers and priests who built this country. Religious continue to maintain involvement in a lot of ministry in the Church.
The Gospel for today is from Luke 2, the account of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. We hear about Anna and Simeon and their encounters with the baby. They are two holy elders who have seen a great deal in their long lives. We are told that Simeon was upright and devout, and that Anna was always in the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer.
When I hear about them, I am immediately drawn to the women and men who gather so often (at least before our pandemic situation) for the daily Mass in our parishes. They are so important for our church community. They keep us faithful and they challenge us to live lives that are rooted in Christ. They are not living out the evangelical counsels of the vowed life, but their faithfulness is at the same level. They are women and men who have spent their lives raising families, working to pay the bills, and finding ways to serve their brothers and sisters.
These pandemic times and the challenges to in-person worship have been a burden for the Anna and Simeons of our Church. In addition to missing the daily in-person worship and the Eucharist, they are also deprived of the supportive community of one another. It is often the habit for those elders at daily Mass to get together for coffee or doughnuts at favourite haunts.
Our prayer today can be for both religious with vows, and the elders of our parish communities.