“…Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters
in every way,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God
to expiate the sins of the people.
Because he himself was tested through what he suffered,
he is able to help those who are being tested.” from Hebrews 2
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for 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.” The words of Simeon in Luke’s gospel
Yesterday morning, I went to Our Lady of the Lake Church in Mandeville to meet a group of ladies for mass and breakfast. There are seven of us all together who mark our calendars and (aim to ) meet on the first Saturday of each month. Very rarely is it that all seven can attend, but inevitably, between two and five will show up. It is a wonderful support group we have! I would highly recommend this kind of arrangement to women (and men) everywhere! In my “breakfast club,” we are all mothers trying to raise our children to live in this mixed up world – to know, love and serve the Lord. It can be a daunting task, so it is incredibly refreshing for us to meet each other – to be fed spiritually at mass, then to enjoy good food, a bit of relaxation, and to benefit from each others’ prayers and support. I am very grateful to my husband for allowing me to have this time with my friends.
When I arrived yesterday morning, I noticed that a crowd was gathered on the steps of the church. As I got closer, I could hear a familiar voice – that of our priest leading the group in a prayer of blessing. Everyone was holding candles. The priest explained that it was the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. I didn’t hear the significance of the candles, but it surely was a neat way to start the liturgy so early on a Saturday morning. We processed into church, then extinguished our candles. The mass was simple, yet so beautiful.
I felt particularly touched by the readings and the homily. I nodded my head, and in my heart praised God for the words from St. Paul to the Hebrews – because Jesus suffered and was tested, He is able to help those who are being tested! That’s me! (That’s all of us!)
Our God loves us so much that He became one of us in all ways but sin. He humbled Himself to share in our humanity – There is nothing that we cannot entrust to Him – because He knows – He truly knows how we feel. We are never alone – we are never without one who can empathize! Thanks be to God!
Whenever I hear the word of Simeon proclaimed, I get goosebumps. I can imagine this old man who had waited all His life to see the Savior – and here he was being handed this beautiful child to hold in his own two arms. What great awe – and joy he must have felt! Sometimes, after receiving Holy Communion, I go back to my place and close my eyes. I picture myself approaching the stable in Bethlehem, and kneeling beside the manger. I ask Mother Mary for permission to hold her baby. She smiles, hands Him gently to me and tells me that He came for me. I feel like Simeon must have felt when He gazed upon the baby Jesus’ tender little face.
Just an interesting sidenote – the priest mentioned that in Rome, the Christmas decorations in the churches stay up until the Feast of the Presentation. I thought that was very interesting – it’s a shame that would never fly here in the United States! Our Church was decorated beautifully for Christmas. Here are some pictures:
I was struck by the priest’s suggestion that the only proper response to the Incarnation and the Presentation (and for that matter – the Crucifixion and Resurrection) is gratitude. God’s love is truly amazing and all-encompassing. That is something to be very grateful for! Let’s celebrate it – and share it. Just as the parishioners took the candles on the steps of the church and from one flame lit a multitude of tapers, so let us spread God’s love and light to all the world!