I mentioned in my sermon on Christmas Day that the readings in this season would show us how deeply our Lord entered into humanity, except for sin, which He nevertheless took upon Himself to redeem us.
The readings in the traditional Latin Mass missal are very doctrinal. So what we see in the readings today is that our Lord entered into the Old Testament law. He is presented in the temple now, for Mary and Joseph to make the required offering for His birth. But already we see the portent of what is to come. Simeon and Anna appear, moved by the Spirit. The Old Testament law was in preparation for the Messiah, and now our Lord has come, and He fulfills the law. He will send the Holy Ghost to remind the Church of everything He said, and to show us the way to live our faith.
There is also a visual imagery here. If you look with your mind’s eye, you will see it. We begin with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, at the manger. Then she shepherds come, so the circle becomes wider. Then He is presented in the temple, representing the Jews who first received the promise of a savior. At Epiphany, the wise men come and give honor to our Lord, representing the nations whom it will be our Lord’s destiny to redeem all. Then there is a great moment, which is not in the cycle of our readings, where our Lord travels all the way from Nazareth to across the Jordan where John is baptizing, presenting Himself, and He disappears into the mass of humanity, all of humanity, longing for a Messiah, longing for God. Then our Lord begins His public ministry, and we have the Gospel of the miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, before we being our pre-lenten Sundays. The Church wants us to be part of all these circles, the intimate circle of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the great circle of the mission of the Church.
Simeon and Anna of today’s Gospel represent the best sensibilities of Israel. Although we do not have it in today’s Gospel, Simeon is described as “just, pious, and awaiting” the fulfillment to Israel. Anna is in the temple constantly, praying, fasting, vigilant for the Lord. They are waiting, and this is the posture, the interior disposition of those who receive, because everything God gives us is a gift. But it is not a passive waiting. Simeon and Anna seize on the moment when they recognize the Lord.
St. John of the Cross, the sixteen century Carmelite mystic—he was also an administrator—in his Spiritual Canticle, chapter 31, says, “It is indeed credible that a bird of lowly flight can capture the royal eagle of the heights, if this eagle descends with the desire of being captured.” This is our Lord, Who has descended from heaven, to be captured, and He loves to be captured. He is captured in the manger, in the embrace of Simeon, in the house at Nazareth where this Gospel leads, in our vocations, in our homes—the little church—in the hearts of those who seek Him, in the sacrament of the Eucharist, which we celebrate today and every Sunday, where He is present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. He loves to be captured.
Remember the poor Pharisees? They used to ask, “Show us a sign, then we will believe.” Well, the signs were all around them, but they could not see them. First comes faith and love. There is a sign in an old hermitage which says, “As for earthly things, first we know them, then we love them. As for heavenly things, first we love them, then we know them.” We were made for God, and so we believe in Him, we love Him, and then we see Him everywhere. He reveals Himself in faith and love, so that we may see Him, and we may capture Him.