Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is also called the feast of encounter: the beginning of the liturgy states that Jesus goes to meet His People, it is the encounter between Jesus and His People. When Mary and Joseph take their child to the Temple of Jerusalem, it is Jesus’ first encounter with His People, represented by the two elderly Simeon and Anna.
It was also an encounter within the history of the People, an encounter between young people and the elderly: the young were Mary and Joseph with their newborn, and the elderly were Simeon and Anna, two personages who always frequented the Temple.
Let us observe what the evangelist Luke says of them, how he describes them. Of Our Lady and Saint Joseph he repeats four times that they wanted to do what was prescribed by the Law of the Lord (cf. Luke 2:18.104.22.168). One gathers, almost perceives that Jesus’ parents have the joy of observing God’s precepts, yes, the joy of following the Law of the Lord! They are two newlyweds, they have just had their child, and they are altogether animated by the desire to fulfill what is prescribed. This is not an external fact; it is not to feel well, no! It is a strong, profound desire full of joy. It is what the Psalm says: “In the way of Thy testimonies I delight … Thy law is my delight” (119:14.77).
And what does Saint Luke say of the elderly? He stresses more than once that they were led by the Holy Spirit. Of Simeon he affirms that he was a just and pious man, who awaited the consolation of Israel, and that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (2:25); he says that “the Holy Spirit had revealed to him “ that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ, the Messiah (v. 26). And, finally, that he went to the Temple “inspired by the Spirit” (v. 27). Then of Anna, he says that she was a “prophetess” (v. 36), that is, inspired by God, and that she was always in the Temple “worshipping with fasting and prayer” (v. 37). In sum, these two elderly were full of life! They were full of life because they were animated by the Holy Spirit, docile to His action, sensitive to His calls …
And behold the encounter between the Holy Family and these two representatives of the Holy People of God. Jesus is at the center. It is He who moves everything, who attracts one and all to the Temple, which is the House of His Father.
It is an encounter between young people full of joy in observing the Law of the Lord and the elderly full of joy by the action of the Holy Spirit. It is a singular encounter between observance and prophecy, where the young are the observers and the elderly are the prophets! In reality, if we reflect well, the observance of the Law is animated by the Spirit himself, and the prophecy is moved in the way traced by the Law. Who more than Mary is full of the Holy Spirit? Who is more docile than she to His action?
We look at consecrated life in the light of this evangelical scene as an encounter with Christ: it is He who comes to us, brought by Mary and Joseph, and it is we who go to Him, led by the Holy Spirit. But He is at the center. He moves all, He attracts us to the Temple, to the Church, where we can encounter Him, recognize Him, welcome Him and embrace Him.
Jesus comes to meet us in the Church through the foundational charism of an Institute: it is lovely to think thus of our vocation! Our encounter with Christ has taken its form in the Church through the charism of one of his male witnesses, of one of his female witnesses. This always astounds us and makes us give thanks.
And lived also in consecrated life is the encounter between the young and the elderly, between observance and prophecy. Let us not see it as two opposite realities. Rather, let us leave the Holy Spirit to animate both, and the sign of this is joy: the joy of observing, of following a rule of life; and the joy of being led by the Spirit, never rigid, never closed, always open to the voice of God who speaks, who opens, who leads, who invites us to go towards the horizon.
It does good to the elderly to communicate wisdom to young people; and it does good to young people to receive this patrimony of experience and wisdom, and to carry it forward, not to keep it in a museum, but to carry it forwards facing the challenges that life presents; to carry it forward for the good of the respective Religious Families and of the whole Church.
May the grace of this mystery, of the mystery of encounter, enlighten and comfort us on our journey. Amen.
[Translation by ZENIT]