Epiphany 4 : Year C
the holy mountain stands the city he has founded,’ so sings the Psalmist
(Ps.87v1), ‘the Lord loves the gates of
this was the city chosen by God for the fulfilment of his purpose to bring
together and make one, his people, his chosen, his first love, to make of them
the prophets came to see, the city was not just for the descendants of Jacob but
was for all the peoples of the whole earth. ‘Glorious things are spoken of
you, O city of our God’, declares the Psalmist, ‘
Here is an enrolment of the whole world, of greater significance than that decreed by any Roman Caesar. Jerusalem was to be the city for all humankind, the city in which all peoples shall have the rights and privileges of citizenship, the city whose gates will be open perpetually to receive and welcome the Gentiles – there is a place for them, for they too belong here.
it is that this new born Child, who has been brought to Jerusalem and to the
Temple to be presented to the God of Israel, is hailed by Simeon both as ‘the
light of revelation to the Gentiles’ as well as ‘for glory to Israel’.
The voice of prophecy is heard once more in the
the beginning, all those centuries earlier, long before there was a Temple, long
before there was a Jerusalem, while they were still struggling on their weary
march through the wilderness, the people of Israel had to learn what might be
implied by having the tabernacling Presence of God among them – first in the
Tent of Meeting set up by Moses, then later in the Temple built by King Solomon
was how it was until
due course the People were allowed to return from exile,
The Angels had sung of ‘peace on earth’ at this Child’s birth but his coming among us to be with us as one of us, brings judgement. God’s gifts are not easy or comfortable and not at all what we might expect. So it is that there will be many times in the years ahead when the sword will turn in Mary’s heart as she learns to let go of her Child, learns to realise that she does not understand what is going on and must learn to trust. ‘Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?’ It is in this same place twelve years later that she will be faced with that question. Later still the sword will turn in her heart when he leaves her to embark on the Father’s business and she hears of the hostility and hatred directed against him and when he has to tell her that there are others who are now his family. Then the unimaginable horror, the final desolation of his dying and the manner of it. Throughout her life she has had to learn that hardest and most difficult of all truths, that the love is proved in the letting go. The Incarnation challenges us by what it requires of us by way of response.
is worth noting how different from each other the two great Octaves in the
Church’s year are. At Easter nothing, absolutely nothing, is allowed to stand
in the way of those eight days – lesser feasts simply disappear as a candle
flame disappears in the dazzle of the sun’s rays and greater feasts are
transferred to another date.