The Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple is celebrated on a fixed date, February 2, about forty days after Christmas. It is one of the major feasts in the church year. The Eastern Church calls it the Meeting while in the West it is sometimes known as Candlemas or the Feast of the Purification. The celebration of this feast began in the fourth century in Jerusalem.
The feast celebrates the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary in the Jerusalem temple forty days after Jesus’ birth as told in Luke 2:22-38. The Holy Family went to the temple in accordance with the law concerning a woman’s purification following childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8) and the consecration to God of the firstborn (Exodus 13:2).
On this day Mary placed her small son into the arms of the aged Simeon, the God-Receiver. Simeon blessed God and said the words that became the canticle we call the Nunc dimittis:
Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).
Simeon saw salvation this day. He held salvation in his arms. Tradition, however, says that Simeon was 270 years old at this time and blind. Some might say this is impossible or that tradition contradicts the scripture in which Simeon declares his eyes have seen the savior. The factual accuracy of Simeon’s age or blindness, however, is not the issue. The truth is Simeon saw. But he saw more than what was revealed by physical sight. He saw with the eyes of his heart, the eyes of faith, the eyes of hope.
This deeper seeing revealed a deeper truth so beautifully described by St. Ephraim the Syrian: “Simeon, the priest, when he took Him up in his arms to present Him before God, understood that he was not presenting Him, but was himself being presented.”
Truly, he was now free to go in peace.