From the desk of Fr. Andrew

February 2019

Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We will hear these words spoken/read on the feast day of The Presentation of our Lord into the Temple which is celebrated every year on February 2nd. These words were spoken by the devout servant of God, Symeon. Symeon was a very religious person who knew his Old Testament Scripture well and was patiently waiting for the promised Messiah. He lifted up his voice to God and asked that his flame not burn out before he laid eyes on the Savior. His prayer was answered but not until he was over one hundred years old.

As the holy and righteous ancestors of the Lord, Joachim and Anna, brought Jesus to the Temple they were met there by Symeon and he took the child and blessed Him. Joachim and Anna offered what the Law of Moses required (a pair of turtledoves and two young pigeons) Ex. 12:1-8. Following that event, not much more about Jesus' early life is known. The next account of Jesus' life comes at the age of twelve. As we remember, He was found in the Temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions... and that is about it.

Forty days after his birth, Jesus was brought to the Temple to be dedicated to God. This act of faith completed what was required from the parents according to the Law. Jesus was born in a cave, circumcised on the eighth day and given His name; and then on the fortieth day, He was brought to the temple to be dedicated to God. It was a seemingly normal ritual act. However, with the presence of Symeon and his words, Symeon's patient endurance allowed him to proclaim Now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation...

As Orthodox Christians we retain the ancient custom of bringing our children to the Church (Temple) to be blessed forty days following their birth as well. The forty day presentation of our children serves two purposes. First, it is an official welcome back extended to the parents and child. Child birth can be a difficult process and moms and dads and their child(ren) need time to adjust to their life changing event. This takes some getting used to and many Sundays can pass. Thus, the forty day service/prayers offers the parents and child the opportunity to officially return to the Church; the community sharing in the joy of the new born within the context of communal worship.

Secondly, the same idea of dedicating our children to God is still a beautiful ritual even today. Parents bring their children to Christ's Church in faith with the hope that they will remain close to Her. Throughout history the Church, like the Theotokos, has been looked upon as a mother, a mother of God. St. Cyprian, writing in the third century, reminds us believers cannot have God for their Father if they have not the Church for their mother. My Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as devout and faithful Orthodox Christians, let us continue to encourage one another to be present for the divine service of the Church. Let us as parents and family members continue to bring our children to the Church (Temple) and present them to the Lord, as He gave example and left us with the feast day of the Presentation.

When we bring our children from a young age their sensory organs will remain full of Christ's Church on earth (Col. 1:24). If from a young age they (and we) continually hear the prayers and hymns of the Church, look upon the icons, light candles and pray, smell the incense, do our cross and taste the awesomeness of the Gifts, they (and we) will be less likely to be led astray or away; and more likely to someday repeat the words of St. Symeon, Lord now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation. This year's celebration for the feast day of the Presentation of the Lord into the Temple will be offered on Saturday, February 2nd with the Orthros service starting at 9:00am followed by the Divine Liturgy at 10:0am.

God's continued blessing, +Fr. Andrew