SAINT GEORGE ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHURCH
كنيسة القديس جاورجيوس الأنطاكية الأرثوذكسية المسيحية
Father Joseph Rahal
Tomorrow (February 2) is a very special day in the life of the Holy Church.
It marks the Feast of the Holy Presentation of our Lord to the Temple.
It is most often, on Sunday mornings, you see me walking back and forth to church a baby during Liturgy. This is an ancient and Biblical tradition that every child must be presented to the Lord. The reason is to emphasize God gave us the gift of life and we, in return, present to God gratitude of this gift as guardian and protector.
As we read in Genesis, God made man in His image and likeness. He created male and female and blessed them to procreate. Therefore, every child is the image and likeness of God. In reality, churching a baby is for the parents, most importantly, for the mother to rejoin the community of prayer and worship. This makes sense as women, after childbirth, need to be nurtured and cared for, physically and emotionally, by members of their family. After 40 days, she comes with her husband to give thanks to God for this precious gift of life and to present their child to the Lord.
When the priest meets the couple at the entrance of the church, he gives thanks to God for the recovery of the mother and, as a thanksgiving, this child is to be presented, just as Baby Jesus was presented in the old days. Every time we present a child in church, we also present none other than our Lord.
We read in the Gospel of St. Luke that Mary and Joseph took the Child Jesus to the temple and met an elderly man by the name of Simeon. Simeon was promised he would not see death before he saw the redemption of his people, the birth of Christ. When he saw Jesus he told the Lord he could be taken away because he had witnessed, with his own eyes, confirmation of all promises. Anna the Prophetess was also present.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)
Mary and Joseph also took with them a gift to God, a pair of turtledoves. The law stated when you church a child you are to offer a gift. The turtledoves were a poor family’s offering to God.
“Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. As it is written in the law of the Lord,
‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’ and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’
And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him And it has been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ’Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace. According to Your word;
for 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 of Your Israel.’
And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him.
Then Simeon blessed the child and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is destined
for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against,
(yes a sword will pierce through your own soul also) that the thoughts of many hearts
may be revealed. Now there was on, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.
She was of great age and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the lord and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
St. Luke 2:22-38
Prayerfully Yours, Very Rev. Joseph Rahal
Senior representative of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Washington, DC
Member of the Spiritual Court for All North America (US & Canada)
Content copyright 2018. Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. All rights reserved.