The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, which falls on 2 February, celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (‘Meeting’ in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. Scripture : The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40). According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) (Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1-4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas. Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon the Righteous. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon prayed the prayer prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus: “Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Simeon then prophesied to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38). In art: The event forms a usual component of extensive cycles of the Life of Christ and also of the Life of the Virgin, although often only one of this scene and the visually similar Circumcision of Jesus is shown, and by the late Middle Ages the two are sometimes combined. Early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically shown at the entrance to the Temple, and this is continued in Byzantine art and Eastern Orthodox icons to the present day. In the West, beginning in the 8th or 9th century, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to a Jewish high priest, and conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family and Anna. In the West Simeon is more often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images the Virgin is more likely still to hold Jesus. Name of the celebration: In addition to being known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and Greek Catholic Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches which use the Byzantine rite), it is known as the “Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple” or as “The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ”. In the Byzantine tradition (Eastern Orthodox), the Meeting of the Lord is unique among the Great Feasts in that it combines elements of both a Great Feast of the Lord and a Great Feast of the Theotokos (Mother of God). It has a forefeast of one day, and an afterfeast of seven days. However, if the feast falls during Cheesefare Week or Great Lent, the afterfeast is either shortened or eliminated altogether. The holy day is celebrated with an all-night vigil on the eve of the feast, and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy the next morning, at which beeswax candles are blessed. This blessing traditionally takes place after the Little Hours and before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (though in some places it is done after). The priest reads four prayers, and then a fifth one during which all present bow their heads before God. He then censes the candles and blesses them with holy water. The candles are then distributed to the people and the Liturgy begins. The services for the Meeting of the Lord contain hymns composed by many of the great Church hymnographers: St. Andrew, Bishop of Crete (7th cent.); St. Cosmas, Bishop of Maiuma; St. John Damascene; St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (8th cent.); and St. Joseph the Hymnographer, Archbishop of Thessalonica (9th cent.) On the same day, Orthodox Christians also commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.” It depicts the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords piercing her heart. This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus. It is because of the biblical events recounted in the second chapter of Luke that the Churching of Women came to be practiced in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Though the usage has mostly died out in the West, the rite is still practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Date: In the Eastern and Western liturgical calendars the Presentation of the Lord falls on 2 February, forty days (inclusive) after Christmas. The date of Candlemas is established by the date set for the Nativity of Jesus, for it comes forty days afterwards. Under Mosaic law as found in the Torah, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for three and thirty days “in the blood of her purification.” Candlemas therefore corresponds to the day on which Mary, according to Jewish law, should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification (Leviticus 12:2-8). The Gospel of Luke 2:22–39 relates that Mary was purified according to the religious law, followed by Jesus’ presentation in the Jerusalem temple, and this explains the formal names given to the festival, as well as its falling 40 days after the Nativity. History: The Feast of the Presentation is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. There are sermons on the Feast by the bishops Methodius of Patara († 312), Cyril of Jerusalem († 360), Gregory the Theologian († 389), Amphilochius of Iconium († 394), Gregory of Nyssa († 400), and John Chrysostom († 407). The earliest reference to specific liturgical rites surrounding the feast are by the intrepid nun Egeria, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381–384). She reported that 14 February was a day solemnly kept in Jerusalem with a procession to Constantine I’s Basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily preached on Luke 2:22 (which makes the occasion perfectly clear), and a Divine Liturgy. This so-called Itinerarium Peregrinatio (“Pilgrimage Itinerary”) of Egeria does not, however, offer a specific name for the Feast. The date of 14 February indicates that in Jerusalem at that time, Christ’s birth was celebrated on 6 January, Epiphany. Egeria writes for her beloved fellow nuns at home: XXVI. “The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honor, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day, and Symeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw him, treating of the words which they spake when they saw the Lord, and of that offering which his parents made. And when everything that is customary has been done in order, the sacrament is celebrated, and the dismissal takes place.” Originally, the feast was a minor celebration. But then in 542 the feast was established throughout the Eastern Empire by Justinian I. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, killing thousands. The Emperor, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire Empire. And, on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages and a solemn prayer service (Litia) to ask for deliverance from evils, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, the feast was elevated to a more solemn celebration. The Presentation is chiefly observed today in the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican traditions. In the Orthodox traditions it is the day on which believers bring beeswax candles to their local church to be blessed for use in the church or in the home. Relation to other celebrations: The Feast of the Presentation depends on the date for Christmas: As per the passage from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22-40) describing the event in the life of Jesus, the celebration of the Presentation of the Lord follows 40 days after. The blessing of candles on this day recalls Simeon’s reference to the infant Jesus as the “light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32).
Notes 1. ^ Schiller, 90–94 2. ^ Liturgy of the Hours, 2 February. 3. ^ Janekovic-Romer, Zdenka (1996) (in Croatian), Javni rituali u politickom diskursu humanistickog Dubrovnika, Zavod za hrvatsku povijest Filozofskog fakulteta Zagreb – Institute of Croatian history, Faculty of Philosophy Zagreb, p. 78, http://hrcak.srce.hr/file/76971 4. ^ witchology.com Retrieved February 7, 2008 5. ^ NOS GWYL FAIR (Candlemas) Page Retrieved February 7, 2008 6. ^ Imbolc Customs and Lore Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, 1996. Retrieved February 7, 2008 7. ^ Milk Symbolism in the ‘Bethu Brigte’ by Thomas Torma University of Ulster Center for Irish and Celtic Studies, eDIL Project. Retrieved February 7, 2008. 8. ^ Brighid: What Do We Really Know? by Francince Nicholson, Celtic Well E-Journal, 1999. Retrieved February 7, 2008. 9. ^ On St. Brigit and Pagan Goddesses in the Kingdom of God by Sherry Rowley, Canadian Woman Studies Vol 17,No.3 1998. Retrieved February 7, 2008. 10. ^ Curiosities of Popular Customs and of rites, ceremonies, observances, and miscellaneous antiquities, by William Shepard Walsh, 1898. Pg. 168. Retrieved February 7, 2008. 11. ^ Robert Chambers (1832), “Christmas decorations”, The book of days, 2, W. & R. Chambers Ltd, p. 753 12. ^ Old sailors sayings 13. ^ “World Day Of Orthodox Youth, February 2/15”. Syndesmos. http://www.syndesmos.org/content/en/events/other_events/wdoy/. Retrieved 2011-02-13.
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