Dear brothers and sisters!
In today’s feast we contemplate the Lord Jesus whom Mary and Joseph take to the Temple “to present him to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22) Revealed in this evangelical scene is the mystery of the Son of the Virgin, the consecrated One of the Father, who came into the world to carry out his will faithfully. (cf. Hebrews 10:5-7)
Simeon points to him as “light for revelation to the Gentiles,” (Luke 2:32) and proclaims with prophetic word his supreme offer to God and his final victory. (cf. Luke 2:32-35) It is the meeting of the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Jesus enters the ancient Temple, He who is the new Temple of God: He comes to visit his people, bringing to fulfillment obedience to the Law and inaugurating the end times of salvation.
It is interesting to observe close up this entrance of the Child Jesus into the solemnity of the Temple, in the great “coming and going” of so many people, seized by their endeavors: the priests and the Levites with their turns of service, the numerous devotees and pilgrims, desirous of encountering the Holy God of Israel. None of these, however, notice anything. (This is astonishing for me to think about!) Jesus is a child like others, first born son of two very simple parents. Even the priests are incapable of accepting the signs of the new and particular presence of the Messiah and Savior. (One of the challenges of becoming a consecrated virgin at this point in time is that the consecrated virginity as a vocation is frequently overlooked or misunderstood. While I don’t think that this particular difficulty is an intrinsic part of our charism (since consecrated virginity is a PUBLIC state of consecrated life), I still often find helpful in my own spirituality to strive to imitate Jesus in the humility of His Incarnation and in His willingness to be overlooked and unnoticed. The fact that some of the most awesome and glorious events in all of history could be so widely ignored reminds me that it is not human respect or esteem which makes a call from God valuable or “real.”)
Only two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, discover the great novelty. Led by the Holy Spirit, they see in that Child the fulfillment of their long expectation and vigilance. Both contemplate the light of God that comes to illumine the world, with their prophetic gaze open to the future, as proclamation of the Messiah: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium!” (Luke 2:32) In the prophetic attitude of two old people is the entire Ancient Covenant, which expresses the joy of the encounter with the Redeemer. On seeing the Child, Simeon and Anna intuit that it is in fact Him, the One Awaited. (This makes for a good examination of conscience, especially for consecrated virgins. We can ask ourselves: do we long for Him with a depth that would allow us to recognize Him instantly when He comes?)
The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total donation of the life for all those men and women who are called to reproduce in the Church and in the world, through the evangelical counsels, the characteristic features of Jesus “virgin, poor and obedient.” (postsynodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata, 1) That is why today’s feast was chosen by the Venerable John Paul II to celebrate the annual Day of Consecrated Life. In this context, I address a cordial and grateful greeting to Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, whom I recently appointed prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with the secretary and the collaborators. I greet affectionately the Superiors General present and all consecrated persons.
I would like to propose three brief thoughts for reflection on this feast. The first: the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple contains the essential symbol of light; the light that, coming from Christ, shines on Mary and Joseph, on Simeon and Anna and, through them, on everyone. The Fathers of the Church linked this radiation to the spiritual journey. Consecrated life expresses this journey, in a special way as “philocalia,” love of divine beauty, reflection of the goodness of God (cf. Vita Consecrata, 19). Resplendent on Christ’s face is this beauty. “The Church contemplates the transfigured face of Christ, to be confirmed in the faith and not risk dismay before his disfigured face on the Cross ... she is the Bride before her Spouse, sharing his mystery, enveloped by his light, [from which] are gathered all his children ... But a singular experience of the light that emanates from the Word incarnate are certainly those called to the consecrated life. In fact, the profession of the evangelical counsels places them as sign and prophecy for the community of brothers and for the world.” (Vita Consecrata, 15)
In the second place, the evangelical icon manifests the prophecy, gift of the Holy Spirit. Simeon and Anna, contemplating the Child Jesus, perceive his destiny of death and resurrection for the salvation of all peoples and proclaim this mystery as universal salvation. Consecrated life is called to this prophetic witness, linked to its twofold attitude, contemplative and active. Given to consecrated men and women, in fact, is to manifest the primacy of God, passion for the Gospel practiced as a way of life and proclaimed to the poor and to the last of the earth. “In the strength of such primacy nothing can be preferred to personal love for Christ and for the poor in which He lives. True prophecy is born from God, from friendship with Him, from attentive listening to his Word in the different circumstances of history” (Vita Consecrata, 84). In this way consecrated life, in its daily living on the paths of humanity, manifests the Gospel and the Kingdom already present and operative.
In the third place, the evangelical icon of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple manifests the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, the wisdom of a life dedicated totally to the search of the face of God, of his signs, of his will; a life dedicated to listening and to proclaiming his Word.
“‘Faciem tuam, Domine, requiram’: thy face, O Lord, do I seek.” (Psalm 27:8) Hence, the consecrated person witnesses the joyful and laborious commitment, the assiduous and wise search of the divine will.” (cf. Congress for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, Instruction the Service of Authority and Obedience. , 1)
Dear brothers and sisters, be assiduous listeners of the Word, because every wisdom of life is born of the Word of the Lord! Be scrutinizers of the Word, through Lectio Divina, because consecrated life “is born from listening to the Word of God and accepting the Gospel as its norm of life. To live following the chaste, poor and obedient Christ is in this way a living ‘exegesis’ of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit, in the strength of which the Bible was written, is the same who illumines the Word of God to men and women founders with new light. From it flows every charism and every rule is an expression of it, giving origin to itineraries of Christian life marked by evangelical radicalism.” (postsynodal apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, 83)
Today we live above all in the most developed societies, a condition often marked by a radical pluralism, by the progressive marginalization of religion from the public sphere, by a relativism that touches fundamental values. This calls for our Christian witness to be luminous and consistent and for our educational effort to be ever more attentive and generous. In particular your apostolic action, dear brothers and sisters, must become a life commitment, which accedes with persevering passion, to wisdom as truth and beauty “splendor of the truth.” Be able to orient your life with wisdom, and with trust in the inexhaustible possibilities of true education, and the intelligence and the heart of men and women of our time to the “good life of the Gospel.”
At this moment, my thought goes with special affection to all consecrated men and women, in every part of the earth, and I entrust them to the Blessed Virgin Mary:
O Mary, Mother of the Church,
I entrust to you consecrated life,
So that you will obtain for it the fullness of divine light:
That it may live in listening to the Word of God,
In the humility of the following of Jesus your Son and our Lord,
In the acceptance of the visit of the Holy Spirit,
In the daily joy of the Magnificat,
So that the Church is built by the holiness of life
Of these your sons and daughters,
In the commandment of love. Amen.