Sermon: The Presentation of Our Lord

Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (1710)
by Andrea Celesti

The prophet Ezekiel has a great vision of the Lord. He writes in chapter one, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.  And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures.”

Remember the Ark of the Covenant, how it was kept in the Holiest of Holies in the Temple and that on the lid of the Ark there are the two cherubim with their wings outstretched towards one another. It is in that place just above where the wings meet that God made his home on earth, where Ezekiel understands this vision to be taking place.

However, as his visions continue, Ezekiel understands that God is about to punish the people for their idolatry and that he intends on doing so through the Babylonians. The people will be carried off into captivity and the city and temple will be destroyed. We learn that this can happen, because God is leaving the Temple. Ezekiel writes in chapter nine: “Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub on which it rested to the threshold of the house.” Then in chapter ten, “Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.  And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the Lord, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.”

For all those years, God had remained in the Temple, but now he leaves. You can imagine the pain in the peoples’ hearts as they heard these words, but there is hope, because the punishment will not last forever. Chapter forty-three: “Behold, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east. And the sound of his coming was like the sound of many waters, and the earth shone with his glory…. As the glory of the Lord entered the temple by the gate facing east, the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple.”

All that Ezekiel spoke concerning the destruction of the city and the Temple came to pass, but what about God’s return? When would his Glory once again cross the threshold and re-enter the temple? We read about the beginning of this great event today: the Presentation of Our Lord, when Mary and Joseph brought the Son of God into the Temple. As St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Hebrews, Christ “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” The glory of the Lord was returning and it was Simeon who testified to it:

Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.

We are also witnesses to God’s glory returning. We see it each time this glory enters into a human temple and radiates God’s word throughout.

The Presentation of the Lord is an ongoing process until the Lord returns in all His fullness. We see it as God enters these human temples of ours and begins his marvelous light. Yet, we are not only witnesses, but participants as we are the ones who carry Him to others. We are the ones who present Jesus at the threshold of souls so that he might enter.

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