Presentation 2013 First Profession of Br David Yates
Today we celebrate the most unusual of feasts in that it has no less that four names, three of them deriving from the event it celebrates and one from the rite that takes place before Mass begins, the blessing of candles. So in the West we have Candlemas, the Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation of Our Lord, while in the East we have the Feast of Meeting, Hypapante in Greek, referring to Christ who enters his Temple in order to meet with his people, represented by Simeon and Anna. And, of course, it is the last day of Christmas, the fortieth day since the birth of Jesus, the last feast of the Advent to Epiphany cycle, which at the same time looks forward to the season of Lent and the Easter cycle of feasts. “A sword will pierce your own soul too,” says Simeon to Mary as he sees, in the Christ Child, the Messiah born to suffer and die for our sins. If we go back further, to the dawn of creation, today is also the halfway mark between the shortest day and the spring equinox.
But in future years, you, dear Br David, will celebrate on 2nd February yet another event, another anniversary, that of your monastic profession. Yes, I know that in three years’ time you will have to make your solemn or final profession, but this is the one that counts. In many ways and for several reasons a monastic profession is very much like today’s feast and reflects the important events we celebrate in the life of Our Lord and his blessed Mother. Let’s look at them briefly and pray that your whole life will be a constant living out the implications of today’s feast.
To begin with, Meeting or Encounter. You are making your profession today because it was the Lord Jesus himself who met you on the road of life and, during that encounter, called you to be his very own, first as a Catholic and then as a monk of Belmont. That meeting changed your life. You knew there and then that life would never be the same again. Like Simeon you took the Lord Jesus in your arms and blessed God, saying, “ Now, Lord, let your servant go in peace, according to your promise, for my eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all the world to see, a light of revelation for the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.” That personal encounter with the Lord has marked you for life, as it has done all the saints of history. Just think of St Paul and his experience on the road to Damascus.
Purification. Having given birth to Jesus, Son of God and Saviour of the world, Mary, like all good Jewish women, stayed hidden for forty days, until such time as she could come to the Temple to be purified and so give thanks for the birth of her child. This custom was kept faithfully until recent times in all traditional Christian societies where the churching of women was a significant family celebration. The novitiate, to some extent, reflects those forty days of hidden life, a life hidden with Christ in God, a period of nurturing the birth of a vocation. You have, as it were, been purified of your former life, the good and the bad, and you are now ready to come before the altar of God in his Temple and say, “Here I am, O Lord, I come to do your will.” In this sacrifice of praise, Jesus himself leads the way and Our Lady accompanies you with her powerful intercession.
Presentation. The Belmont Community, led by the Abbot and Novice Master, bring you as though we were proud parents and present you to the Lord. Your own dear mother joins us in doing this. We follow the example of Mary who brought the Infant Jesus to the Temple, as Hannah brought Samuel and all the holy women of the Bible brought their sons to be given to the Lord for his service. Like Mary and Joseph we too are wondering at the things that are being said about you and at what you might become. Our only prayer, like theirs, is that you will be pleasing to God and that, by his divine grace, you will become holy and spotless, a sacrifice without blemish, an icon of Christ himself, the Lamb of God.
Candlermas. Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” To the extent that you give yourself wholly to Christ and live your life in him and in the power of his Spirit, through the keeping of your vows and through a life of constant prayer and true humility, then you too will be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of God’s people Israel”. Like the candles that were blessed this morning, and that will lighten the darkness not only of this church but of our very lives, you have been called by God to the Benedictine way of life to be a light in the darkness of the world around us. It’s a frightening thought and you must be wondering what you’ve let yourself in for, but for God nothing is impossible: all you need do is have faith, hope and love in abundance, and these are God’s gift to those who love him.
Dear Br David, when this Mass is over and this day is done, you will, like Jesus, go back to Galilee and to Nazareth, to the monastic enclosure and your cell. There, hidden from the world, you will continue to search for God in silence and humility, in prayer and in work, alone and in community. We pray that, in Jesus, you too may grow to maturity and be filled with wisdom. There can be no doubt that the favour of God is with you. We all give thanks to God for the privilege of accompanying you on your monastic journey. May I conclude with the words of St Benedict? “As you progress in this way of life and in faith, may you run on the path of God’s commandments, your heart overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. May you through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that you may deserve also to share in his kingdom.” Amen.
source: Crossroads Initiative
The Feast of the Presentation
of the Lord Jesus in the Temple
source: Crossroads Initiative
By: St. Sophronius
Bishop and Early Church Father
This excerpt from a seventh century sermon by St. Sophronius (Orat. 3 de Hypaphante 6.7: PG 87, 3, 3291-3293) is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for the Feast of the Presentation on February 2. A feast and gala procession in honor of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple was celebrated by Jerusalem Christians at least as early as the late 4th century. It took place 40 days after the feast of the Lord's birth since the Jewish law required a mother to undergo a rite of purification 40 days following childbirth. In Luke's account of the Presentation, Simeon is recorded as proclaiming Jesus "a light of revelation to the Gentiles." And so at the beginning of the eighth century, Pope Sergius inaugurated a candlelight procession on this day; several years later the blessing and distribution of candles was added to the celebration. Hence this day came to be known as Candlemas. Simeon's canticle, known as the Nunc Dimittis, is prayed daily in the Church's office of Night prayer or compline.
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendor of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of his eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.
The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows;the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God.
The true light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendor, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal. Rejoicing with Simeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendor.
Through Simeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we too embraced Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel. Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in his honor.