To the Church, February 2nd is not about groundhogs, gophers, wombats, marmots, or any other winter weather predicting rodents. For the Church, February 2nd is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. The tradition of receiving and blessing altar candles during the celebration of the Presentation Mass gives this day its other title: Candlemas.
The Presentation gospel is from Luke 2:22-40. It is the story of Mary and Joseph taking their infant child, Jesus, to the Temple to complete two important rituals required by Torah. The first is the completion of Mary’s purification rite as required 40 days following childbirth (which is a third title for this Feast Day: The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The second ritual was the rite of redemption from God of their firstborn male child, Jesus.
Jesus is presented at the Temple. Luke’s narrative reveals that not only is Jesus presented, he is recognized and received, first by Simeon then by Anna. Simeon takes the child into his own arms and embraces the salvation—the redemption, God has given him in Jesus. While the text doesn’t specify if Anna took the child into her arms, it is clear that Anna recognized, received, and proclaimed to all hopeful ears that Jesus was God’s redemption.
The Gifts of God for the People of God!
In the Eucharist, these are the words of the “Invitation.” However, they are also words of presentation: Jesus is presented to the people in the Bread and the Cup of the Eucharist. We, like Simeon and Anna, are invited to recognize, receive, and proclaim this gift—Jesus, as our redemption.
The Gifts of God for the People of God.
God’s gift of Jesus is given to us, it is for us, and to fully receive it is to share it. The rubrics of the Prayer Book instruct that any remaining consecrated Bread or Wine should be treated with appropriate reverence. However, the rubrics are clear that before the remaining Bread and Wine is to be reverently consumed, it is to be shared: Shared with the sick, or with others who “for weighty cause could not be present at the celebration,” or for the administration of Communion to a congregation when no priest is available to celebrate the Eucharist.
The Gifts of God for the People of God are to be shared.
I am continuing and expanding my efforts to prepare and license ministers to share and administer Communion in our congregations that do not have regular access to a priest. The Episcopal Church of Scotland (one of our Anglican Communion Partners and the source of the Consecration of the First Bishop of the Episcopal Church) has developed an excellent liturgy for this very purpose. I look forward to sharing this liturgy with the Diocese of Alaska in hope that while we continue to raise-up, form, and support ordained leaders in and for the church, the People will be able to receive, proclaim, and share the Gifts of God that have been given to and for them.