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Robert P. Imbelli February 2, 2013 - 7:40am
It is a source of wonder that the first few pages of the Gospel according to Saint Luke present three prayer/canticles that have framed and oriented the Church's day for almost two thousand years:
"Benedictus:" "The dawn from on high shall break upon us.""Magnificat:" "My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.""Nunc dimittis:" "My eyes have seen your salvation."
The last one, of course, associated with today's feast.Here is Fra Angelico's depiction in a cell in the Convento di San Marco (with thanks to JRP):
I've translated Peter Abelard's Vespers hymn for the day, Adorna, Sion, Thalamum. Let Zion's bridal-room be clothed:He comes, her Lord and her Betrothed.Let man and woman, by faith's light,Their vigil keep throughout the night.Saint Simeon, sent forth in joy,Exults to see the baby Boy:The light in Whom all things are knownHas now upon the nations shone.His parents to the temple bringThe Temple as an offeringThe righteousness of law He choseThough to the law He nothing owes.So, Mary, bring this little one,Yours and the Father's only SonThrough whom our offering is madeBy whom our ransom price is paid.And forward, queen of virgins, goAnd let rejoicing overflowWith gifts bring forth your newborn SonWho comes to rescue everyone. Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory brightWho guides the nations into lightBe praised, and for eternityBe glorified, O Trinity. Amen.
This is a beautiful feast.I love the hymn by "Jan Struther" (Joyce Maxtone Graham, the real Mrs. Miniver). It starts like this:When Mary brought her treasure Unto the holy place,No eye of man could measure The joy upon her face. He was but six weeks old,Her plaything and her pleasure, Her silver and her gold.http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/struther/hymns/hymns.htmlFor more about Joyce Maxtone Graham:http://www.amazon.com/Real-Miniver-Ysenda-Maxtone-Graham/dp/0312308264It sometimes happens that Simeon gets all the attention, and old Anna is forgotten. Here's a lovely article about her from BAR:http://www.bib-arch.org/e-features/mary-simeon-anna.aspFrom that:Anna then approaches the Holy Family. She, too, recognizes Jesus as messiah, but she has a very different reaction: At that moment, she came and began to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38). She is 84 years old, according to Luke, and she does not want to die: She wants to proselytize. Like the disciples who will follow her, she is driven to bear witness to what she has seen. Mary was the first to have the good news announced to her, but Anna is the first woman to understand fully and proclaim the good news.This is because in addition to being a proselytizer, Anna is a prophetess (Luke 2:36). In fact, she is the only woman in the New Testament explicitly described as a prophetess.
Yes, a beautiful feast.Here is a passage from today's Office of Readings, taken from a sermon of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem (late sixth-early seventh century):The Mother of God, the most pure Virgin, carried the true light in her arms and brought him to those who lay in darkness. We too should carry a light for all to see and reflect the radiance of the true light as we hasten to meet him.The light has come and has shone upon a world enveloped in shadows: the Dayspring from on high has visited us and given light to those who lived in darkness. This, then, is our feast, and we join in procession with lighted candles to reveal the light that has shone upon us and the glory that is yet to come to us through him. So let us hasten all together to meet our God
Thank you all for your lovely further reflections. The link which Gerelyn provides to the article in the "Biblical Archeology Review" also shows a painting of the scene in the Temple by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in which Anna is prominently featured.I also love Abelard's (via Kathy): "His parents to the temple bringThe Temple as an offering"
I found a You Tube (two and a half minutes) in which an art historian describes the splendid Ambrogio Lorenzetti Presentation in the Temple. But I haven't a clue as to how to send it. The commentary gives prominence to Anna and to Simeon, but not a word on Mary and Joseph, nor the woman to Our Lady's right. St. Ann? St. Elizabeth?
Thank you, Father Imbelli. I have a ten-pound (or it feels like it) book on Sienese painting in which Lorenzetti is, of course, treated in detail. The Presentazione al Tempio is beautifully re-produced, but the description is minimal. I'll keep searching. It's much too cold in this southern city for a walk.
Kathy ==Thanks for the translation. I didn't realize Abelard was a poet, much less a good one. More:-)
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.
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