Amersfoort Chaplain’s Letter (02/16)


On February 2nd, the Christian church celebrates the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (also known as Candlemas) – as recorded in Luke 2:22-40.  It is a key festival – it completes the forty days of Christmas and Epiphany; it is a event rich in its layers of meaning; and it is a pivotal day when, having looked back one last time to Christmas (Jesus is only 40 days old), we turn towards Lent (as Ash Wednesday is on February 10th) and the Passion of our Lord.

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Rembrandt

There are many things to consider. The witness of old Simeon and Anna, the old order welcoming the new. The theme of the gospel for all peoples as Jesus is to be the one to enlighten the nations.  The message to Mary, how her son will cause the fall and rise of many and how a sword will pierce her own soul.  But consider the person of the Spirit.  Luke tells us: Simeon was a man “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” In fact, we read further of the Spirit – how the Spirit revealed to him that he would see the Messiah; how on that day, he was guided by the Spirit into temple.
In these first two chapters of Luke, the Holy Spirit has been very active!  How Zechariah is told that his son John will be “filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.”  The angel Gabriel tells Mary that the “Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”  When Mary visits Elizabeth days later, the baby John leaps in his mother’s womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Spirit.  And when John is to be circumcised, Zechariah is filled with the Spirit and he declares what we know as the Benedictus.  Such activity by the third person of the Trinity!

We remember another period of forty days – the forty days after the resurrection – Jesus tells his followers: “wait for the gift my Father promised … in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” As Christians we have each received the Spirit but Simeon’s example is a model for us: someone who was guided by the Spirit and someone who listened to the Spirit of God. Let us seek to become more like Simeon.