Presentation of the Lord – World Day of Consecrated Life

Simon Vouvet, Presentation of the Lord

Before His Passion, Jesus said, “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness” (Jn 12:46).  And so it is that during the Easter Vigil, in the darkness of night, the celebrating priest lights the paschal candle, saying, “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”

These words recall the words of the Prophet Isaiah that we read on Christmas morning: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:1).  Jesus is the true Light – God from God, Light from Light – and 40 days after he was born, Mary and Joseph took Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord.

When Simeon saw Jesus, he rejoiced and blessed God, saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”  Likewise, when Anna saw Him, “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:30-32, 38).

Through the words of this holy man and woman, we see that, while Mary and Joseph dedicate their Son to the Lord, God dedicates His only-begotten Son to humanity, observes Pope Benedict. Jesus is thus presented as the Mediator who is fully God and fully man, belonging to both the divine and human worlds.

These words were like a second Annunciation to Mary, but beyond the angel’s reassuring words, Simeon adds, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that shall be contradicted; and your own soul a sword shall pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35). By this foretelling of the rejection of Jesus and Mary’s own martyrdom of sorrow, the events of the Nativity are now pointed toward the Cross and Resurrection, when Jesus gave entirely of Himself to humanity in the fullness of love.

We, in turn, are called to make a living sacrifice of self to God and, like Simeon and Anna, speak to others about Jesus, proclaiming with them the Good News of salvation in the Lord, a light of revelation for the world.  This is the mission of us all in the New Evangelization, but those in consecrated life play an especially important role in conveying the much needed luminosity of God’s love and truth to a darkened secular culture (Vita Consecrata, 81, 98).

Those who give their lives totally to the Lord find a compelling model in the Presentation of Jesus.  For this reason, Blessed Pope John Paul II decreed that the annual World Day of Consecrated Life be celebrated in conjunction with this feast day. The consecrated life “is at the very heart of the Church as a decisive element for her mission,” the Pope wrote, “since it ‘manifests the inner nature of the Christian calling’ and the striving of the whole Church as Bride towards union with her one Spouse” (Vita Consecrata, 1).  Because of that intimacy with the Lord, the very fact of being consecrated “makes the consecrated person, as it were, a ‘bridge’ to God for all who encounter him or her – a reminder, a reference point. And this is all by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Consecrated One of the Father. He is the foundation, He who shared our weaknesses so that we might participate in His divine nature” (Homily of Pope Benedict, February 2, 2010).

How many people throughout history have seen the radiant light of Christ shine in a religious sister or brother!  In the Archdiocese of Washington, there are 68 communities of women religious and 43 men’s communities providing ministerial witness to the Gospel in a variety of ways, including contemplative prayer, education, healthcare, social work, administration, and communications.  They are joined in the consecrated life by many members of secular institutes who exercise a powerful and timely lay apostolate in the midst of the world.

In their generosity of spirit, these women and men invite us to consider the reality of the kingdom of God in our midst, a kingdom of peace and light, of mercy and forgiveness, of life and love.  Like Simeon and Anna, they long for the Savior and strive with God’s grace to follow Him closely and provide a living testimony of the Good News of salvation in the Lord, a light of revelation for the world.  Their witness is a precious gift for which we are exceedingly grateful, and which we should all seek to complement with our own witness.

If you feel you may be called to the consecrated life, you can learn more here or by contacting Sister Mary Dolora Keating, R.S.M., at 301-853-4576.