Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Daily Readings for February 2, 2016

Malachi 3:1-4
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight-- indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

Psalm 84 Quam dilecta!
1   How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
2   The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.
3   Happy are they who dwell in your house! they will always be praising you.
4   Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.
5   Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.
6   They will climb from height to height, and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.
7   LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; hearken, O God of Jacob.
8   Behold our defender, O God; and look upon the face of your Anointed.
9   For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
10   For the LORD God is both sun and shield; he will give grace and glory;
11   No good thing will the LORD withhold from those who walk with integrity.
12   O LORD of hosts, happy are they who put their trust in you!

Hebrews 2:14-18
Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too." There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him

The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple

Today the church remembers The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple.

Ancient Jewish custom prescribed that a woman who had borne a male child should, forty days after giving birth, come to the temple to be "purified" (Leviticus 12). Furthermore, it was customary to present publicly every firstborn male child to God in the temple (Exodus 13:2, 12). Therefore, Mary and Joseph went up to the temple for her Purification and Jesus' Presentation.

In the temple, to everyone's surprise, a devout old man, Simeon, who was full of the Holy Spirit and "waiting for the consolation of Israel," took the infant Jesus in his arms and praised God in the words of the now familiar Nunc dimittis. In this canticle Simeon proclaimed Jesus "a Light to enlighten the nations." For this reason, in medieval times the Nunc dimittis was sung and candles were blessed and lit and carried in procession through the streets on the night of this feast. It is still called "Candlemas" in England, and the ancient "Feast of Lights" is still sometimes observed in connection with this occasion. Certainly a reflection on the Nunc dimittis is always an appropriate devotion for this day.

Almighty God, we pray that as your only Son our Savior was presented in the temple of the old covenant, so we, who are the temple of his Holy Spirit, may come before you with pure and clean hearts. Amen.

Almighty and ever-living God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Meditation for February 2, 2016

Luke 2:35 And a sword will pierce your own soul too.

In my college art history class, we had to remember a lot of virgins with children. The syllabus listed numerous virgin depictions each week, many with children and all with different sets of historical details. They tended to blend together, so it was with a heavy heart that I noted yet another virgin and child on our list one Monday afternoon. When the image of the Virgin of Vladimir slid onto the screen, I was unprepared for my reaction.

I forgot to take notes and just gaped. As much as anything, it was Mary’s hands that moved me. In her hands and face you can see the struggle to keep her child safe juxtaposed with the knowledge every mother faces (but Mary more than any): she cannot hold or protect him for long.

I have seen dozens of representations of the Madonna and Child, some remote, some tender, some beatific, some sorrowful. Of all of them, the Virgin of Vladimir best helps me to comprehend the sword that pierced Mary’s soul.