Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
Today’s feast concludes the cycle of Nativity-based feasts. Forty days after Christmas, Mary goes to be made ritually pure and to present her Son to God. But while there are moments of hope and joy, there is also pain and sadness. Simeon and Anna both prophesy great things about Jesus, but Simeon also speaks of Mary’s future heartache. Christmas doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper. It ends with a moment of joy that has an edge of sadness to it. For that matter, all the feasts surrounding the Nativity have that edge–from Mary’s fear at the Annunciation, to Herod’s slaughter of the Holy Innocents, to now, the moments surrounding Jesus’ birth have always come with at least a little fear and pain.
Even the high points of our lives are like this–plenty of joy, but also something missing. At the best of parties, eventually we’ll have to call it a night and do the dishes. Jesus didn’t come to be with us just when we’re happy to affirm our good feelings, or just when we’re sad to take the sadness and replace it with something better. He came to be with us throughout our whole lives, even the middling times. We can love God and still have some pain, or we can be experiencing sorrow even though it isn’t the absolute depths of despair, and God is still with us. God is always with us, Jesus can always relate to our experience. This is the gift of the Incarnation, and what we see so clearly on the last feast of Christmas.