The Orthodox Christian Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple on February 2nd each year. This marks 40 days since Christmas, and therefore it is the day in which the Theotokos and St. Joseph took the infant Jesus to present him in the temple, according to Mosaic Law; while the Theotokos offered the prescribed sacrifice and underwent the purification requirement prescribed by the same law.
This year, the feast falls on a Sunday, when we can all go to church and celebrate it together! Let us prepare our children by helping them learn more about this feast. The feast has many names, each of which helps us better understand an aspect of it. We can talk with our children about the feast’s names as well as how important each name is to helping us know what we are celebrating!
Here are the names for this feast:
1. “The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple” – This name helps us to remember that on this day, our Lord was brought to the Temple. This shows that Christ really was a man: and therefore, had to be presented to the Temple, as the law required. If He were not human, that law would not have applied to Him.
We can help our children understand this with an object lesson. We can talk with our children about what it means to be real. One idea of a way to do this would be to select a stuffed animal for which your child has seen/experienced the real animal (for example, a stuffed bear). Ask, “Is this (stuffed) bear real? How do you know? Does it eat, drink, sleep? No! We can pretend that it does, but if we put food in front of this bear – even really yummy food like honey (set honey in front of the bear, wait to see if it eats it) – it will not do anything, because it’s a toy bear. It is not a real, living bear. The name ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’ shows us that the infant Jesus was really a REAL person; a real human. He wasn’t just an angel or something pretending to be a real human, or he would not have needed to be presented at the Temple, like that. This feast reminds us that Jesus, even though He is God, was also a real human, just like us.”
2. “The Meeting of the Lord” – This name reminds us that this is the day on which Righteous Simeon and Anna met our Lord, as they hopefully waited for His appearance in the Temple. This helps us to realize that, just like they were able to meet the Lord, we can meet Him, too; if we are looking and hoping for Him, and living righteous lives.
We can help our children understand this aspect of the feast by learning more about St.s Simeon and Anna. We can read about their lives at http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/02/03/100409-holy-righteous-simeon-the-god-receiverand http://oca.org/saints/lives/2014/02/03/100410-holy-righteous-anna-the-prophetess. We can then tell our children about these saints, and ask the children to help us figure out why these two saints are called “righteous.” We can make a list (or sketch, if our children can’t read) of characteristics of St.s Simeon and Anna, that made them righteous. Then, we can challenge ourselves and our children to imitate those characteristics, so that we, too, can be better ready for Christ when we meet Him. (Let us also remind ourselves and our children that we meet Christ every Sunday, in the eucharist! May we meet him with righteous lives and hopeful hearts.)
3. “The Purification of the Virgin” – The Theotokos came to the Temple to fulfill the purification required of her by Mosaic Law. She also brought the required sacrifice. So this name reminds us that the Theotokos did everything according to the religious law of that time; it was a way that she could show her determination to follow God. It is a good reminder to all of us as parents that we need to do everything that we are able to do to remain in right standing with God.
We can help our children see the parallel between this feast and the practice of “churching” which takes place to this day in our churches. We can talk with our children about any new babies in our parish; as well as what happens on the first day that baby (and his/her mother) came back to our church. This is a great time to review what a “churching” is for; as well as what happens at a churching. (For a concise version of this information, see http://www.orthodoxservices.org/AboutChurching.htm.)
Note: the name, “Candlemas,” is also used for this day, by some churches, especially in western parts of Russia. The tradition of blessing candles to be lit in church, as a reminder of the lights burning in the Temple on that day, is celebrated by some churches. If your parish celebrates the blessing of candles, this would be a good time to discuss why we light candles in church; and perhaps decorate a few to take to church to be blessed. There are some ideas at http://www.squidoo.com/candlemas-day.
Regardless of which name we use to refer to this feast, we are reminded of God’s great love for us as well as our need to live in a way that leads us to Him! Let us celebrate the feast!
“Thou Who didst sanctify the Virgin’s womb by Thy birth and bless Symeon’s hands as was fitting hast now come to us and saved us, O Christ our God. But grant peace in the midst of wars to Thy community, and strengthen the Church which Thou hast loved, O only Lover of mankind.” Kontakion of the Meeting
More information about the names of this feast can be found at http://orthodoxengland.org.uk/sermmeet.htm.