1. Introductory prayer for the Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus Presented in the Temple – Luke 2:22-40
I pause and slowly calm myself. I make the sign of the cross, becoming more deeply aware of God’s presence within me and in everything that surrounds me. I ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the gift of being moved by God’s word, which I am now allowed to read, listen to, ponder, and allow it to shape Christ within me (Gal 4:19), that I may become merciful, just as the heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6:36). I ask for this in my own words or by using the following:
“Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to discover in prayer, through Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, how crucial it is to live each day in faithfulness to your plan of love. Only in this way can I fully fulfill your plan of love for the salvation of the world.”
2. Reading – Listening: Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus Presented in the Temple – Luke 2:22-40
22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[a]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[b]
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss[c] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[d] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
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3. Thoughts on the Gospel: Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus Presented in the Temple – Luke 2:22-40 – Meaning and Commentary
The words ‘according to the law of the Lord’ are a kind of refrain that repeats several times. Luke mentions two regulations. The regulation about the purification of the mother can be found in Leviticus 12:2-8. It occurred forty days after birth. Until then, the mother was not allowed near holy places, and the ritual was accompanied by the offering of a small animal.
The regulation of consecrating the firstborn was prescribed in Exodus 13:11-16 and served as a kind of ‘redemption’ in memory of God’s saving act of liberation from slavery in Egypt. A small animal was offered in this case as well. Mary and Joseph, as faithful followers of the Old Covenant, fulfilled these rituals, showing us the importance of fulfilling the law.
On this occasion, they also encountered Simeon and Anna, who, due to the enlightenment and workings of the Holy Spirit and their lives of faith and anticipation, recognized in their child the expected Messiah, the Redeemer. Simeon is identified as someone completely immersed in anticipation, entirely obedient to the Spirit’s guidance leading him to the child in the temple.
In his canticle, he expresses that he has lived long enough to reach this moment and can now depart so that others may see the light and salvation that will come through the child for Israel and the Gentiles. Anna reveals the grace of this event through her symbolic age (symbolic value: 84 equals 7×12, twelve tribes of Israel; or 84-7=77, double completeness) as well as through her lifestyle (fasting and prayer) in obedience to the Spirit of prophecy and by proclaiming to all who are ‘looking forward.’
Her belonging to the least of the tribes, Asher, signifies that the small and weak are those best capable of recognizing Jesus, the Redeemer. Both individuals represent those among the Jewish people who wait and rejoice for the dawn of a new light.
In general, the words that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart are interpreted as her suffering. However, we must see in her a symbol of Israel, deeply torn by the living and sharp Word of the Redeemer (Luke 12:51-53), as Simeon foretold. Mary also represents the path of the new covenant people: she must trust but will go through times of pain and darkness, battles, and painful silence.
The story of the suffering Messiah will be painful for everyone, including the mother. The metaphors of the ‘sword’ that will pierce and the ‘child’ over whom many will stumble and whose presence will shake many hearts must not be separated from the significant actions of these two elderly individuals: Simeon takes the child in his arms to show that faith is an encounter and embrace, not just an idea or theory; Anna takes on the role of a herald and lights a bright flame in the hearts of all who ‘await’ him.
The entire passage in a straightforward manner speaks of a young couple with a child in their arms, an elderly man who rejoices in and embraces him, an elderly woman who prays and proclaims, and those who listen.
In the end, it speaks of the village of Nazareth, about the growth of a child in the ordinary context of village life, which is simultaneously extraordinary in wisdom and kindness. It clearly shows that God mercifully reveals and operates even in the most ordinary life and environment.
4. Meditation – Thinking – Feast of the Holy Family – Jesus Presented in the Temple – Luke 2:22-40
I am now reflecting on the heard Word of God. I am looking at Jesus and other individuals in the passage. I am observing how the Word of God touches my thoughts and feelings, how it reveals God to me and me to myself and others in Him. The following thoughts or questions can also be helpful:
- What struck me in reflecting on this passage and what does it mean for my relationship with God, myself, and others?
- What significance does my everyday life take on when viewed in the light of this Gospel passage?”
5. Personal Prayer
In the next moments of silence, I talk about this with Jesus. I tell him what I think, what I feel, what I want. I ask him for the grace that I need for … (make your conversation with God).
6. Contemplation – Quiet moment with God
I allow everything within me to fall silent. I am simply present in God, just as He is present in me. Perhaps from this silence and stillness, I will sense even more of God’s address and His desire for me to be always with Him and to do everything with Him and in Him…
When I enter into a personal relationship with God, He transforms me, makes me more loving, and inspires me to take concrete action…
8. Prayer at the end
“Heavenly Father, thank you for helping me discover the importance of everyday life. Please help me live it under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, as Mary and Joseph, Simeon, and Anna did.”
9. Review of my prayer meditation or reflection
This is the time when I became aware of and articulate what was happening within me during prayer. The following questions can assist me in reflection:
- What was happening during prayer? What feelings and thoughts could I discern within myself?
- What did I learn about God, His relationship with me and others, and my own relationship with Him and others?
- How did I conclude my prayer? What did I receive in it for my everyday life?
- In the end, I can jot down my insights, discoveries, and realizations. I also note where I encountered difficulties, as these can be valuable in understanding God’s relationship with me and my relationship with Him. They can also help me find a more suitable way of praying. Then, I express gratitude to the triune God for everything.
Lectio Divina meditations are published and adapted with permission from the Jesuits home – ignacijevdom.si
Text from the Bible – New International Version (NIV)