Scripture for the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and the Purification of Mary (Candlemas)
Malachi 3.1–5; Psalm 24.7-10; Hebrews 2.14–18; Luke 2.22–40
After a week at Archdeaconry Synod, with more than one hundred other chaplaincy representatives, and a theme of ‘Caring for Creation,’ we return to celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple with the messages of Synod still ringing in our ears. Light connects the two.
Not only is light the energy upon which the universe is built, not only is light what Christ shines into the darker places of the world, not only is light an essential facet of celebrating Candlemas, but, of course, Christ is the light of the world. Light connects us to the creation of the universe and to the origins of life itself.
Christ came into the world as a human being, and in so doing sanctified (or re-sanctified) human life; yet he also came into a world that had been sanctified and described as ‘good’ by God. In so doing, the whole created order is designated as sacred by God through Christ.
Human beings are given memory, reason, imagination and skill, and are expected to share with Christ the responsibility of caring for God’s creation – all of it – and for the humankind and other life that occupies it. Humanity is set apart by our ability to influence – consciously or not – the world in which we live. The ideal way in which to do so is revealed in the life of Christ, and the season of Epiphany gives us snapshots of the way in which the nature of Christ is manifest in the world.
The feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple reminds us that, even as a small child, Jesus was immersed in creation – and already disrupting the world around him.
In a way, Jesus takes the feeling of being like exiles, strangers in a strange land, that Christians often have, and harks back to the mystical Jewish teaching that even in exile, ‘the Holy One … is in exile with them, for the Shekhinah [Divine Presence] never leaves them.’ (From a Jewish mystical treatise called the Zohar.)
Christ came into the world as human, and in this incarnation he sanctified not only human life, but also the world in which he lived and died. The Jewish writer, Abraham Herschel, in writing about creation and the Jewish tradition, says that human beings are the cantors of the universe. In other words, with our memory and imagination, together with our ability to influence our world, we sing the lines to which the world around responds as a chorus. Thus we have a special place in creation, but not an exclusive one, and it comes with responsibility.
Care for creation is at the heart of Christian vocation. Human action against other living creatures, or the environment, is a sin against God, the creator of all.
Given the privilege of living in the light of Christ, we have the opportunity to shine that light onto feelings of exile and turn it into pilgrimage, to take steps on a journey of caring for one another and for creation as the stewards that God has invited us to be.