Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Two February feasts inspire us to meet Jesus as Saviour

The Presentation of Our Lord (Stritenya), a Feast Day observed every February (2/15), commemorates an episode in Jesus’ infancy that heralds His destiny as our Saviour.

The Gospel of Luke recounts that on the 40th day after Jesus’ birth, Mary and Joseph brought Him to the temple in Jerusalem to dedicate Him to God, as the Law of Moses required.

Entering the temple, they encountered Simeon (St. Simeon the Righteous). According to Eastern tradition, Simeon had been translating the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah’s book, which foretold: “a virgin shall conceive a son and his name will be Emmanuel (God is with us).” An angel visited Simeon, assuring him the prophecy was correct and he would see it fulfilled.

Remembering this, Simeon, who had lived to a miraculously old age, recognized Jesus and proclaimed: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace…For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people.” His utterance is still sung today in the canticle (hymn) called Nunc Dimittis or “Canticle of Simeon.”

Simeon also foretold Jesus’ death and resurrection. He told Mary: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34)

Anna, a prophetess in the temple, also acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. She and Simeon are both venerated as saints. Their Feast Day falls one day after the Presentation, on Feb. 3/16.

On The Presentation of Our Lord, priests bless candles in Church for parishioners to take home. The candles can be used during prayers throughout the year and lit during times of danger. They remind us of Simeon’s declaration that Jesus would be: “A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

“It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.” – Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Valentine’s Day is springboard to live our faith

The quest for “true love” drives much in popular culture. It is glorified in countless movies, songs, books and adverts. The celebration of this romantic ideal reaches a feverish pitch around St. Valentine’s Day. In February, store shelves are heaving with heart-shaped merchandise and adverts encourage us to purchase treats for our “romantic” other.

As Christians, we are called to strive for a higher love, Christian love, the basis of our faith.

There are four Greek words for love: affection (storge), friendship (philio), passion (eros), and brotherly love (agape). Christian love coincides most closely with the latter. It is selfless, voluntary, committed and unconditional.

Jesus spread the message of Christian love. When asked what the greatest commandment was, He said: “‘love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ The second is: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

On Valentine’s Day, let us reach out to neighbours who might be lacking in love. Visit the sick and the elderly or send them a card. Show Christian love to family members by being forgiving and accepting of their inadequacies. With acts of kindness, cheer up those who are single, widowed or divorced. They often feel lonely during this holiday. Teach children to include classmates who might be left out.

While it is thoughtful to show appreciation for our romantic “Valentine,” for Christians, this secular holiday can be a springboard to living our faith more fully.

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