February 2, the Presentation of our Lord, the marks the next of the twelve major feast days on the Church calendar. It’s a time we commemorate the Jewish ceremony of the redemption of the firstborn as well as the ceremonial purification of the Theotokos after childbirth.
In Greek, the feast sometimes referred to as the Meeting. In that term, it’s never been fully clear to me who or what is doing the meeting. Is our Lord meeting St. Simeon, or His ceremonial redemption, or His bespoke vocation as the Son of God? Is St. Simeon meeting His Savior? Or is it the Theotokos who’s doing the meeting, the encountering with ritual purification? Or is it all of the above? Or, on a deeper level, are they all–in convening in the temple–Meeting something deeper and more there than we can give words to, like the presence of God? Is God the Father encountering His Son in the flesh? I’m not sure–and the layers of it all are so delicious I prefer to leave the mystery as is.
Aside from the rich terminology, this particular Feast has never really spoken to me. I was wondering what on earth to write about it when I happened to come across a few lines by Madeleine L’Engel that stopped me cold:
The House of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are–or should be–challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently. Madeline L’Engel (1)
This quotation made me remember how wonderfully vague I’ve always found that term: Meeting. And it made me add yet some more things that are meeting on this encounter in the temple: time and eternity.
But more than that, it reminded me that the House of God is not a safe place but a challenge, and an invitation. It beckons us into a place of greater vulnerability than before. To accept any invitation, we must open ourselves–we must say “Yes,” which is a more defenseless mode of existence than “No.”
We see in the Feast of the Meeting a gathering, a coming together of old (Simeon) and new (Christ), a blending of time and eternity. But we also see an interdependence–both need one another for their meaning to be realized. We see need and desire–the need to be cleansed (2), the need for a savior.
May we enter into God’s House with hearts that are ready to Meet–with Christ and the Mother of God; with time and eternity; with vulnerability and our need for one another. And in our own meetings, may we find grace and extend it to others.
On an unrelated note, I recently wrote a guest post for Ancient Faith’s Behind the Scenes about writing and the act of finishing. If you’re interested, you can find it here.
(1): I found this quotation in a little devotional by L’Engle called Glimpses of Grace.
(2): According to Church teachings, the Virgin Mary did not need to be cleansed but she humbly submitted to the requirements of the law.