02 February 2007

"Master, according to your word..."

The Presentation of the Lord: Mal 3.1-4; Heb 2.14-18; Luke 2.22-32
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club and Church of the Incarnation


How surprised the prophet Malachi would have been on the day of our Christ’s presentation to hear a child greeted as the Messiah! The voice of the Lord warns Malachi that the one he seeks will suddenly appear in the temple. This one is the messenger to prepare the way! This one is the messenger of the covenant! And the Lord asks, “…who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears?” He will be refiner’s fire to purify and a fuller’s lye to strip clean. He will refine the sons of Levi so that their sacrifice will please the Lord. How very strange then to see This One, the One, this child, greeted by Simeon in the temple as “Master.” The Word Made Flesh among us is presented by his mother and father to his Father in Heaven as Jewish custom requires. Then and there he is titled “light for revelation to the Gentiles” and “glory for your people Israel.”

It is no mistake that Jesus is recognized as the Messiah while obeying the traditions of his people. His very life is the culmination of prophecy and vision. It is precisely as a faithful Jew that he is recognized and proclaimed. He is one who lives now the longest story of his people; one who stands here with the history and power of his family at his back and all of the future of his people before him. Is God tweaking our expectations by presenting the Messiah to us as a child? Of course! Is He showing us how He can surprise and delight us with the oddest twists of history? Of course! But these are not the point of showing us the Messiah at his Presentation in the Temple. The point is: the Messiah is a faithful Jew and those who recognize him will do so because 1) they have trusted in the words of the prophets like Malachi and 2) they have been disposed by the Spirit to recognize their salvation in Christ. They are prepared, in other words, to be refined like gold and stripped clean.

Simeon greets the Lord as his salvation and begs for death, knowing that there is nothing to fear in death but everything to celebrate. Christ came to share our lives with us as one of us so that he might destroy death by dying and thus granting freedom to those whose fear of dying chain them to sin as slaves. What fear remains then in taking the hand of the Lord and saying, “I have seen my salvation!” What fear remains in subjecting ourselves to the refiner’s fire, the fuller’s lye? Our Lord is a merciful and faithful High Priest before God—he is our priest, our sacrifice, and our God, expiating our sins with his own body and blood. How then can we not understand mercy? How can we not reach out to touch the Christ Child as Simeon did and say, “…my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples.”

We are gold ready for refinement, silver ready for purification. We are the finest clothe ready for cleaning and the richest dyes. We are made fresh, empty, all-again new, and we are handed our freedom. If that freedom will flourish, our daily prayer will be: “Master, according to your word, let your servant go in peace and in peace serve you with sacrifice and praise and thanksgiving.” Who is this king of glory? He is Christ Jesus our Lord!

29 January 2007

Prayer to Mary, Mother of Priests

Prayer to Mary, Mother of Priests, Pastores dabo vobis, JPII, 1992

O Mary, Mother of Jesus Christ and Mother of priests, accept this title which we bestow on you to celebrate your motherhood and to contemplate with you the Priesthood of your Son and of your sons, O Holy Mother of God.

O Mother of Christ, to the Messiah-Priest you gave a body of flesh through the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the poor and the contrite of heart; guard priests in your heart and in the Church, O Mother of the Saviour.

O Mother of Faith, you accompanied to the Temple the Son of Man, the fulfillment of the promises given to the fathers; give to the Father for his glory the priests of your Son, O Ark of the Covenant. O Mother of the Church, in the midst of the disciples in the Upper Room you prayed to the Spirit for the new People and their Shepherds; obtain for the Order of Presbyters a full measure of gifts, O Queen of the Apostles.

O Mother of Jesus Christ, you were with him at the beginning of his life and mission, you sought the Master among the crowd, you stood beside him when he was lifted up from the earth consumed as the one eternal sacrifice and you had John, your son, near at hand; accept from the beginning those who have been called, protect their growth, in their life ministry accompany your sons, O Mother of Priests. Amen.