The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in The Temple
February 1, 2022
This Wednesday, February 2, is the feast of The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in The Temple (we will be transferring its celebration to this Sunday, February 6). This is an important feast in many parts of the Church (considered one of the Twelve Great Feasts in the Easter Orthodox Church), and a most ancient celebration, dating to, at least, the early 400s. It is another epiphany in this Epiphany season. An epiphany is a manifestation, a striking appearance. When it comes to God, however, the manifestations are more than striking appearance. The manifestations are experiences of sharing. In other words, when God manifests Himself, God shares Himself.
Forty days after Jesus’ birth, we have a sharing in the Temple. When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. This was prescribed in the law, as recorded in the Book of Leviticus, chapter 12. More deeply than mere observance of tradition, however, Mary and Joseph are coming to the Temple to thank God for the gift of Jesus and to share the gift with the world. And, waiting in line to receive the gift are the mysterious figures Simeon and “Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher”.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) preached on this feast:
Offer your Son, holy Virgin,
and present to the Lord the blessed fruit of your womb.
Offer for the reconciliation of us all
the holy Victim which is pleasing to God.
After this public sharing, Joseph, Mary and Jesus “returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” Normalcy resumes, or so it seems. Divine light, hidden in the everyday, is our new normal. Discover it. Discover the Lord present to you, loving you unconditionally. How blessed we are.
Yours in Christ,
The Feast of St. Agnes
FEAST OF SAINT AGNES
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
This Sunday we celebrate, in a special way, Saint Agnes (of Rome), our patroness and
intercessor, co-sojourner, sister and divine friend. The early Church assigned her feast
to 21 January (we are moving it to our Sunday celebration for communal purposes; she
Agnes was born in Rome and raised in a Christian family. She died a virgin-martyr at
the age of 12 (or 13) on 21 January 304. She was buried in a Roman catacomb, over
which, during the reign of Constantine (306-337), a basilica, Sant'Angese fuori le mura,
was erected. The basilica was later remodeled by Pope Honorius (+638) and has since
remained unaltered. In the apse is a mosaic showing Agnes amid flames, with a sword
at her feet. It is my dream to have a parish pilgrimage to this site.
Many have sung her praises and extolled her virginity and heroism under torture. The
three oldest written testimonies to her martyrdom are those of Saint Ambrose (d. 397),
Bishop of Milan, Pope Damasus (d. 384), and Aurelius Prudentius (d. 413), Roman
Christian poet. Prudentius adheres to Saint Ambrose’ account of death by the sword but
expands the story: the judge threatened to give over her virginity to a house of
prostitution for refusing a fixed marriage. For her refusal of such aggression to her
innocence, she was killed. In the end, she remained a virgin and obtained the crown of
martyrdom. How the gift of faith can make us strong and faith-full and victorious. Indeed,
by it, one can move mountains…
Saint Agnes, patron saint of rape survivors, can teach us about the sacredness of the
human body and about being single-hearted for the Lord. She is depicted in the mural
above our main altar. She is the second figure from the left, and below her are symbolic
representations of her innocence and martyrdom: a lamb (agnus in Latin) and a palm
Saint Agnes, pray for us.
Yours on the faith journey with her,
Next week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This has been an ecumenical tradition since 1908 and is celebrated every year from 18-25 January in the Northern Hemisphere or around the feast of Pentecost in the Southern Hemisphere. It is sponsored jointly by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the World Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Order.
The theme for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2022 was chosen by the Middle East Council of Churches, originating with the churches in Lebanon: “We saw the star in the east and came to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:2). “The Magi reveal to us the unity of all nations desired by God,” the Council writes in its introduction to this year’s Week of Prayer. “They travel from far-off countries, and represent diverse cultures, yet they are driven by the same hunger to see and know the newborn king and are gathered into the little house in Bethlehem in the simple act of giving homage and offering gifts.”
We ought to be pained by the lack of unity in the Church Universal, in the Body of Christ. After all, as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians (4:4-6), “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” During this week and beyond it, let us pray that Jesus, by His gracious love, make this oneness a reality for us. May we show a special love for all of our Sisters and Brothers in Christ.
Let us pray:
the fragmentation of the little flock grieves your Holy Spirit.
Forgive our weak efforts and slowness in pursuit of your will.
Give us wise shepherds after your own heart
who recognize the sin of division,
and who will lead the churches with righteousness and holiness,
to unity in you.
We ask you, Lord, to hear our prayer.
Yours in Christ,
Source of our oneness,
The Rev. Dominique Peridans
January 4, 2022
This Sunday we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the gospel passage assigned for this feast, we “hear” the First Person of the Trinity, God the Father, speak of and to the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, as “the Beloved”. This is very moving. And as incredible as it may seem, the statement also applies to us. We too are the beloved of the Father.
This tender language is foreshadowed in the first reading (Isaiah 42:1-9): “here is my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” It reveals that the mystery of God is one of unfathomable intimacy and we are invited to join in this intimacy. Indeed, in our own Baptism, Jesus introduces us into the Trinitarian life.
The Carmelite nun, Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity (d. 1906), one of my favourites, writes in a poem that she composed for Christmas of 1901:
He comes to reveal the mystery,
To share all of the Father's secrets
To lead from glory to glory
Even unto the bosom of the Trinity.
Ponder this and surrender to the Lord with a desire for this—especially when things get rough: the projects seem always to go unfinished, the relationships seem only to get more complicated, the loneliness, the bills, the apparent endlessness of COVID, the physical pain that is too great, the unanswered questions...
Let yourself be-loved.
Yours in Christ,
THE REV. DOMINIQUE PERIDANS