The Feast of the Presentation / Meeting of our Lord
The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord is one of the major feasts pertaining to the life of Christ (moranaya - of the Lord). This is also one of the most ancient festal celebrations of the Church as well. This liturgical festival is known by a couple of different names like - The Purification of the Theotokos, as this feast is celebrated on the 40 day after Christmas (Nativity of our Lord). This is again one of the "Festivals of Lights" and hence is called as Candle-mass in Western liturgical traditions. The Liturgy is celebrated by the believers holding lighted candles (this is seen even in the Syriac liturgical tradition). The feast is also known as the Meeting of our Lord (Greek - Hypapante which means meeting). As Simeon the priest meets Christ and prays to the little Child to let him depart in peace from this world (The Gospel of Luke 2: 29 - 32). This particular fest of the Church has the uniqueness of combining elements of the Feast of our Lord as well the Feast of the Holy Theotokos.
The story of the Presentation is told in Luke 2:22-29. Mary and Joseph were faithful Jews and observed their religious customs. An important custom was for the couple to take their first-born son to the Temple. The baby was taken to the Temple forty days after his birth and was dedicated to God. In addition, if the parents were wealthy, they were to bring a lamb and a young pigeon or a turtle dove to be offered as a sacrifice at the Temple. The custom provided that if the parents were poor, they were to offer two pigeons or two turtle doves for the sacrifice.
When Jesus was forty days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem. They were not wealthy, so they took two turtle doves with them to offer as a sacrifice at the Temple. As they arrived at the Temple, Mary and Joseph were met by a very old man named Simeon. He was a holy man and was noted as a very intelligent scholar. Simeon spent much time studying about the prophets of Israel. It was during his studies that he learned of the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people were waiting for the Messiah to come and deliver Israel from their conquerors. From that time on, Simeon spent his time praying for the Messiah to come. He spent many years in prayer. Finally, while Simeon was praying he heard the voice of God. God promised Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. When Simeon saw Jesus, he took the baby in his arms and blessed the Lord and said:
"Lord, now let Your servant go in peace according to Your promise, because my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory to your people Israel."
Also, in the Temple was Anna the Prophetess. She had been a widow for many years. Anna was about eighty-four years old and spent her time in the Temple worshiping, fasting, and praying. When she saw the Christ Child she praised God and spoke of him to all who were awaiting the Messiah. After Jesus was presented in the Temple, the family returned to Galilee to the town of Nazareth. The Bible tells us that Jesus grew and became strong, and was filled with wisdom.
Visit the link to learn more about the Icon of the Presentation of Christ our Lord.