Peace to you, dear brothers and Sisters in Christ, and greetings to you on this Feast of the Presentation of our Lord.
Today’s Gospel tells us about going to church, or rather: then it was still a temple in Jerusalem. To be more precise, the Gospel tells about two temples: the temple in Jerusalem and about the Mother of God, who became the tabernacle, the temple in which God dwelt. After all, this is about her Saint John the Evangelist wrote his famous “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is not only about Christ, but also about His Mother. Do you remember?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. <…> And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)
The Word became Flesh in the womb of the Virgin. It would be better to translate “dwelt” from Greek in a more detailed way as “lived in the tabernacle among us.” And Saint Mary became this tabernacle. She was the door through which the Savior entered the world – He Who is the Son of God and Son of Man. She was a temple where God dwelt.
“And when the days are fulfilled,” this is how our today’s Gospel begins. “The days are fulfilled,” it is not just about the fact that the right moment to go to church has come, when finally there were no other things to do (as often happens with us now). “The days are fulfilled” is about the fact that the Old Testament history has reached its fullness, its fulfillment. Remember how Saint Paul wrote about this: “the old has passed away, now everything is new” (2Cor. 5:17).
On that very day, “the old has passed away” – because what we read and talk about during the Feast of the Presentation was not just the performance of the Old Testament rite by a Jewish woman and her Child, but a change in the entire history of mankind.
For “the Lord entered His temple” (Mal. 3:1), and the Old Testament with its sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, with its services in the Jerusalem Temple and longing for the coming Messiah, came to a fulfillment. The Savior came to became a sacrifice – a perfect and absolute Sacrifice – for the sins of the whole world. He came to establish the New Testament. He came to deliver us from all iniquity and to cleanse a special people for Himself (Titus 2:14).
God cleansed those who came to the Temple. For this, the temple with its sacrifices was needed. But when “the days were fulfilled,” the Old Testament became really “old,” because the time came, this blessed, promised new time has already come, when the Messiah came. And soon, very soon, His true worshipers will worship Him not only in Jerusalem, but wherever there is an altar, where the Word of truth sounds, and the Holy Spirit consecrates the Eucharist – the main sacrament of God’s salvific presence on earth.
And when they did everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their town of Nazareth. (Luke 2:39)
The Lord Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the Law for us and on the Cross He took our sins upon Himself. He called us to Himself and washed us with the waters of baptism, He saved us from death, and sanctified us with His innate presence in us.
In church, at each liturgy, He through His priests grants forgiveness to “poor miserable sinners.” Here we touch Him and partake of His sacrifice.
And then we leave the church in peace and go to our homes. We walk the roads of this world, and, like Saint Mary, we carry Christ in our bodies. For His flesh is tied to ours, and His blood has mixed with our blood, His righteousness has become ours, and His eternal life is given to us by grace.
And if we are here in the church, then no matter what happens in our life, God will always be with us and in us. He will not forsake us and will not leave us. And when the time comes for us to leave this earthly home, we, like Simeon, will go “in peace according to the God’s Word” to heaven and there we will wait for the resurrection of the dead.
Please see the photos from our parish in Moscow, where Bishop Vsevolod celebrated the Presentation with concelebration of Priest Ivan Chernyshev and Deacon Roman Kislov.
Please pray for the safe travels of Lutheran clergy in Siberia, and that all parishioners always strive to the church for the salvific Word and sacraments.