The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
It comes as a surprise to some of our fellow Christians that a number of the traditional Marian Festivals were preserved and retained in historic Lutheranism. It is interesting however to note how they changed from their former focus entirely on Mary, and instead, focused on Christ, since whatever is Biblically associated with Mary, is precisely because of Jesus. This day, in particular, effectively brings to an end our observation of the great events of Christmas and Epiphany, and appropriately, gives us to ponder a somewhat obscure event in our Lord’s life, the occasion of his mother’s purification according to Old Testament law and His presentation in the Temple. The beautiful song of Simeon is featured in the readings these days. I encourage you to pay particularly close attention to the lovely Bach Motet based on the words of Simeon, which he composed early in his career for the funeral of the daughter of one of the pastors in Muhlhausen, where Bach was working at the time. The Cantata is titled God’s Time is Always the Best Time. I’ve put it in the extended entry, with the performance first, followed by the words in German and English.
The Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple, one of the Christological feasts of the Christian Church, is Scripture’s final infancy narrative concerning Jesus. After the Presentation, the Bible says nothing more about Him until His twelfth year.
Many liturgical calendars name this the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, emphasizing its Marian connection. Still another term used is Candlemas, drawing the name from the tradition of blessing the coming year’s church candles on this day.
Saint Luke is the only one of the Evangelists to describe the event (see Luke 2:22-40), something likely unfamiliar to most of his Gentile readers. According to the Gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Baby to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to consecrate Jesus to God and to complete the ritual purification of Mary, both because of the command of God’s Law (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; Leviticus 12).
Upon entering the temple, the family encountered the devout and holy Simeon. Luke records that he was promised that “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2:26)” Simeon took Jesus into his arms, prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, blessed the parents, and prophesied regarding Jesus and Mary.
The prophetess Anna (2:36-38) was also in the temple. She, too, offered prayers and praise to God for sending the Savior.
In the Western liturgical calendar, the Presentation of Our Lord falls on 2 February because this is forty days after Christmas, the celebration of His birth. It is the last festival determined by the date of Christmas and thus shows that the Epiphany season is drawing to a close. Most churches in the East observe the occasion on 14 February since they celebrate Christ’s Nativity on 6 January.
The Scripture Readings:
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 1:21-28
Second Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
Gospel: Luke 2:22-32
Almighty and ever-living God, as Your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, grant that we may be presented to You with pure and clean hearts; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Martin Luther’s Hymn: In Peace and Joy I Now Depart
Luther wrote this hymn to put Simeon’s words in the form of a hymnic setting. It is a beautiful prayer, that makes for a lovely homily for us to ponder on this day:
In peace and joy I now depart
At God’s disposing;
For full of comfort is my heart,
So the Lord hath promised me,
And death is but a slumber.
’Tis Christ that wrought this work for me,
My faithful Savior,
Whom Thou hast made mine eyes to see
By Thy favor.
Now I know He is my Life,
My Help in need and dying.
Him Thou hast unto all set forth
Their great Salvation
And to His kingdom called the earth,
By Thy dear and wholesome Word,
In every place resounding.
He is the Hope and saving Light
Of lands benighted;
By Him are they who dwelt in night
Fed and lighted.
He is Israel’s Praise and Bliss,
Their Joy, Reward, and Glory.
Bach’s Cantata 125
Text follows videos
BWV 106 – “Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit”
|1. Sonatina||1. Sonatina|
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit.
In ihm leben, weben und sind wir, solange er will.
In ihm sterben wir zur rechten Zeit, wenn er will.
God’s time is the best of all times.
In Him we live, move and are, as long as He wills.
In Him we die at the appointed time, when He wills.
|2b. Arioso T
Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken, daß wir sterben müssen, auf daß wir klug werden.
|2b. Arioso T
Ah, Lord, teach us to consider that we must die, so that we might become wise.
|2c. Arie B
Bestelle dein Haus; denn du wirst sterben und nicht lebendig bleiben!
|2c. Aria B
Put your house in order; for you will die and not remain alive!
|2d. Chor und Arioso S
Es ist der alte Bund: Mensch, du mußt sterben!
Ja, komm, Herr Jesu!
( Revelations 22:20) (Instrumental Chorale:
Ich hab mein Sach’ Gott heimgestellt
Er mach’s mit mir wie’s ihm gefällt
Soll ich all hier noch länger lebn
Nicht wider strebn
Seim Willn tu ich mich ganz ergebn.)
(“Ich hab mein Sach’ Gott heimgestellt,” verse 1)
|2d. Chorus and Arioso S
It is the ancient law: human, you must die!Yes, come, Lord Jesus!
|3a. Arie A
In deine Hände befehl ich meinen Geist; du hast mich erlöset, Herr, du getreuer Gott. (Psalm 31:6)
|3a. Aria A
Into Your hands I commit my spirit, You have redeemed me, Lord, faithful God.
|3b. Arioso und Choral B A
Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein.
Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin
In Gottes Willen,
Getrost ist mir mein Herz und Sinn,
Sanft und stille.
Wie Gott mir verheißen hat:
Der Tod ist mein Schlaf worden.
(“Mit Fried und Freud,” verse 1)
|3b. Arioso and Chorale B A
Today you will be with Me in Paradise. With peace and joy I depart
in God’s will,
My heart and mind are comforted,
calm, and quiet.
As God had promised me:
death has become my sleep.
Glorie, Lob, Ehr und Herrlichkeit
Sei dir, Gott Vater und Sohn bereit’,
Dem Heilgen Geist mit Namen!
Die göttlich Kraft
Mach uns sieghaft
Durch Jesum Christum, Amen.
(“In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr,” verse 7)
Glory, praise, honor, and majesty
be prepared for You, God the Father and the Son,
for the Holy Spirit by name!
The divine power
makes us victorious
through Jesus Christ, Amen.
|Acts 17:28 (mov’t. 2a); Psalm 90:12 (mov’t. 2b); Isaiah 38:1 (mov’t. 2c); Ecclesiasticus 14:17 and Revelations 22:20, “Ich hab mein Sach’ Gott heimgestellt,” verse 1: Johannes Leon 1589 (mov’t. 2d); Ps. 31:6 (mov’t. 3a); Luke 23:43 and “Mit Fried und Freud,” verse 1: Martin Luther 1524 (mov’t. 3b); “In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr,” verse 7: Adam Reusner 1533 (mov’t. 4)|