Forty days after his birth, the infant Jesus was presented at the Temple of Jerusalem by his parents in conformity with the law of Israel (Exodus 13, 2). The evangelist Luke reports that two elderly people who lived at the Temple, Simeon and Ann, encountered Jesus and recognized him as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord (Luke 2, 25-38). The Church celebrates this event on 2 February under the name of the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The liturgy begins with the benediction of candles, followed by a procession. This tradition began in Jerusalem in the middle of the 5th century, in memory of the words of Simeon designating Jesus as “a light for revelation to the nations”. The candles we hold in our hands or that decorate our churches are a sign of the presence of the Lord in our lives.
The byzantine liturgy calls this feast Ypapante (encounter), thus drawing attention to the exchanges with Simeon and Ann. The elderly Simeon who takes the infant Jesus in his arms is a symbol of God who encounters humanity and takes us in his arms. This is what is sung in the Alleluia of the day's mass in the Roman Graduale.
From the 8th century until the liturgical reform of Vatican II, the feast of 2 February was called “Purification of the Virgin Mary”. It was one of the four great marian feasts of the year. In effect, the gospel says that Simeon foretold that a sword would pierce the heart of Mary, alluding to Christ's redemptive Passion and Mary's participation in it along with every Christian.
It has been almost twenty years since the feast of the Presentation was designated, by Saint John Paul II, as the day of consecrated life. For, in his presentation at the Temple, Jesus manifests himself as truly consecrated, the living model and elder bother of all consecrated men and women.
Senex puerum portabat : puer autem senem regebat.
The old man was carrying the infant child, but it was the child who guided the man.