Pope reflects on Christ, the light of the world

Pope Benedict XVI. Credit: Mazur
Pope Benedict XVI. Credit: Mazur

.- Pope Benedict XVI marked the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with vespers and explained that the presentation of Jesus in the temple reveals Christ as the light of the world.

“In the encounter between the old man Simeon and Mary, a young mother, the Old and New Testaments come together in a wondrous way in giving thanks for the gift of the light that shone in the darkness and has prevented it from prevailing: Christ the Lord.”

The Pope presided over solemn vespers at St Peter’s basilica for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Feb. 2. 

The feast recalls the occasion when Mary and Joseph, in observance of Jewish custom, presented their first born son to the priest in the temple in Jerusalem 40 days after his birth.

There they were met by the old priest Simeon who was promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” It is he who declared the infant to be “the light to enlighten the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  

This “ritual act” of the parents of Jesus is in the “style of humble obscurity that characterizes the Incarnation of the Son of God,” said the Pope. 

He noted that the feast is “one of the cases in which the liturgical season reflects the historical because today is precisely 40 days from the feast of Christmas.”

“The theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the series of Christmas feasts and culminated in the Feast of the Epiphany, is taken up and extended to the celebration today.”

Indeed, one of the traditional names given to today’s feast is “Candlemas” denoting the blessing of candles which often takes place and the candlelit procession that begins and concludes the liturgy of vespers.

Pope Benedict also noted that today is the World Day for Consecrated Life. The term “consecrated” applies to those Christians who have taken public vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Many monks, nuns and others who live consecrated lives were present in St. Peter’s basilica for vespers.

The Pope told them that the presentation of Jesus “is a significant icon” for those who serve both Church and world “through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic traits of Jesus, chaste, poor and obedient, the Anointed of the Father.”

He recalled how the day had been instituted by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1987 to give “praise and thanks to the Lord for the gift of this state of life, which belongs to the Church’s holiness.”

He also said that the day is an occasion for those who live the consecrated life to give “testimony” to the world and to “renew and revitalize” their own vocation.

“This we do today, this is the commitment that you are called to carry out every day of your life,” he told them. 

He concluded by looking ahead to his Year of Faith which begins in October 2012. He told those living the consecrated life that the “most important and distinctive element” of their existence was their “deep closeness to the Lord” and that this would have a “positive influence” on everybody during the Year of Faith.

His hope was that they will “engage enthusiastically in the new evangelization,” through “the contribution of your gifts, in fidelity to the Magisterium, in order to be witnesses of faith and of grace, credible witnesses for the Church and for the world today.”

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