It is a good and just king who obeys his own laws. And at the time of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, God was doing just that. As the Incarnate Word, He conformed Himself to all those laws which were meant to honour Him. And it took place in the very Temple which was built to worship Him. Old Simeon had waited for years and he had seen countless infants brought into the Temple, but by the stirring of the Holy Ghost within him he knew this was the One. The veil was lifted from Simeon’s eyes, foreshadowing the future day when the Temple veil would be torn in two. The Infant in Simeon’s arms was an image of the Victim on the arms of the Cross. And the aged prophet’s words to the Virgin Mother would be fulfilled when she stood beneath the cross, entering into her Son’s suffering.
This is a continuing epiphany, an ongoing revelation of our Lord. It reminds us of the importance of obedience as we see Christ’s obedience. It reminds us of the importance of waiting upon God as we hear of the waiting of Simeon and Anna. And it reminds us of the importance of offering our best love to God as we witness Joseph and Mary offering back to God the Beloved Infant entrusted to them, giving us a foretaste of the Mass itself, in which Christ is offered to the Father.
There are three times in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ when a period of forty days figure in an important way: the feast of His Presentation in the Temple occurs forty days after His Nativity; the forty days in the wilderness, after which He was “presented” to the world and began His earthly ministry; and the forty days after His Resurrection, after which Christ was “presented” in heaven through His Ascension.
God “speaks His mysteries plain,” and His use of these periods of time tells us something of the nature of God; namely, that the Eternal Word has entered into time and space. At each “presentation” in the earthly life of Christ, it was not He alone who was presented, but He has taken our human nature through these things so that we might experience something similar.
And so we do. We have our own “presentation in the temple” in our baptism. As believing and active Catholics we have a “presentation to the world” as we seek to fulfill our vocation to work for the consecration of all creation in the name of Christ. And, God willing, we will have our “presentation in heaven” when God will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord.”
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy majesty: that, as thine Only Begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh; so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.