The Presentation of Christ in the Temple – 31st January 2021
ORDER OF SERVICE
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All are requested to join in wherever text is GREEN
HYMN: Christ, whose glory fills the skies, Christ, the true, the only light,
Christ, whose glory fills the skies,
Christ, the true, the only light,
Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Triumph o’er the shades of night;
Dayspring from on high, be near;
Daystar, in my heart appear.
Dark and cheerless is the morn
Unaccompanied by thee;
Joyless is the day’s return,
Till thy mercy’s beams I see;
Till they inward light impart,
Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
Visit then this soul of mine,
Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, radiancy divine,
Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display,
Shining to the perfect day.
BLESSED BE GOD: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
And blessed be his kingdom, now and forever. Amen
From Easter to Pentecost:
Allelulia. Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia
In Lent and other penitential occasions:
Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins;
His mercy endures for ever.
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
This prayer is omitted during Lent and Advent:
Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us.
THE COLLECT OF THE DAY
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
THE FIRST READING
Thus says the Lord, See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight– indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?
For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
Domini est terra
7 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
8 “Who is this King of glory?” *
“The Lord, strong and mighty,
the Lord, mighty in battle.”
9 Lift up your heads, O gates;
lift them high, O everlasting doors; *
and the King of glory shall come in.
10 “Who is he, this King of glory?” *
“The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.”
THE SECOND READING
Since God’s children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God
All stand for the Acclamation and Gospel reading.
A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people, Israel.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to:
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed– and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
After the Gospel reading
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ
Although we, out of necessity are keeping it today, Tuesday, February 2nd, is actually the Feast of Candlemas – one of my favourite days in the whole of the church’s year, because the ceremonies help so wonderfully to reinforce the message of the moment. As the name suggests, it’s the day on which, traditionally, all the church candles that were to be used during the coming year, were blessed at the Eucharist – a custom that goes back a great many centuries, and sometimes took more elaborate forms, involving candlelit processions either before, or during the service, or else people bringing their own candles from home to be blessed, and so on. You can imagine that in darker, more northern regions than ours here in Thailand, this was probably an important day in the calendar, and, in fact, some of those more elaborate services do indeed come from churches in Ireland and Northern England. Unfortunately though, it is neither practicable nor possible for us to do this sort of thing here, so we’ll simply have to imagine the splendour and the spectacle, which might otherwise dramatically be unfolding before our very eyes this afternoon!
Candlemas is also the day on which we celebrate several final events in the infancy of Jesus, which is why some churches wait until now to put away all the Christmas decorations, and in particular the crib tableau, thereby signalling the end the Christmas season! The most famous event in Jesus’ infancy that we celebrate today though, is his Presentation in the Temple, as foretold by the Prophet Malachi, which we heard in our 1st Reading, with John the Baptist, (who was just 6 months older than Jesus) as the forerunner. “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple”. According to Luke’s Gospel, it was the custom of the day to present your first-born son to the priest, in the Temple in Jerusalem, forty days after his birth, and you would bring with you a sacrifice – a lamb and a dove, or, if you couldn’t afford that and were poor, like Jesus’ family, just two pigeons! The first-born belonged to the Lord, according to the Book of Exodus at the start of Chapter 13, but then the Book of Numbers, in Chapter 18, tells us that the child could be ‘redeemed’, or ‘bought back’, by the payment of 5 shekels – sounds horribly like an ecclesiastical pawn shop, doesn’t it? Some, of course, were not, but remained in the service of God, and you’ll doubtless recall the account of the boy Samuel, living with Levi at the Temple when the Lord called him, which we last heard only a fortnight ago!
The Jewish Commentary on the Christian Gospels states though, that presenting your child after forty days like this, was not actually a requirement of Jewish Law at that particular time. But in the life of any new parent, bringing your new baby to church, to show it off to your priest and fellow parishioners might as well be a religious rite; it’s so exciting and momentous! It might well be asked if Mary, when she was recalling these infancy stories to the Gospel writer Luke, (because, remember that tradition says, that Luke’s infancy stories are Mary’s memoirs – the stories she told him in her old age, that he then wrote down in his Gospel), the event was just so embellished in her memory (dementia, do I sense some of you thinking?) that she mistook her first trip out with her baby for an important religious ceremony. Who knows?
Then, of course, we encounter once again the chronology problems – the Flight into Egypt was seemingly two years in duration, in order to escape from Herod, so how on earth could Jesus and his parents, Mary & Joseph, possibly have been in Jerusalem a mere 40 days after the child’s birth? However, such anomalies do not need to concern us now, least we lose sight of the all-important messages in today’s gospel.
Candlemas is also sometimes known as the ‘Feast of the Purification’, emphasizing Mary’s ritual re-entry into society, after a forty-day period of seclusion, following the birth of her child. This was the Jewish law of the day, when women were presented in the Temple, for a purification ceremony, before going back out into the world. In parts of the church where devotion to Mary was strong, this is the event people would have associated with Candlemas more than the Presentation of Christ himself. It would also have brought to people’s minds a once-familiar custom, called the ‘Churching of Women’, where a new mother is welcomed back into the congregation following childbirth. In the Anglican or Episcopal tradition, we still have a prayer for ‘the Churching of Women’ in the Book of Common Prayer, rooted in this story, and in those ancient laws which deemed a woman ‘unclean’ after childbirth, on account of the blood shed in the process. Interesting particularly for us here in Thailand though, is to note that, in Buddhism, no woman may ever touch a monk on account of her perceived ‘uncleanness’ through the menstrual process!
The final event in Jesus’ infancy that we mark at Candlemas, is what is called ‘The Meeting’, or the encounter between the old man Simeon and the infant Jesus. It’s a poignant scene: Mary and Joseph bring their new-born son to the Temple, and this old man, probably all but blind physically, somehow has the spiritual insight to see something special – some scrap of hope for the future – in this forty-day-old child. The medieval artists invariably portrayed both Jesus and Mary with a halo about their heads, so you might well be forgiven for wondering how old Simeon, even allowing for his dimming eyesight, could possibly have failed to spot such a give-away, but in reality it would almost certainly not have been even remotely like that. God had endowed the old man with the ability to perceive Jesus, despite the appearance, to all intents and purposes, of being just like any other baby, and promised Simeon that he should not die before this came to pass. The words that he uttered after that encounter are known as the ‘Song of Simeon’ or, to give it its Latin title, ‘Nunc Dimittis’: “Lord, now you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared for all nations to see; a light to lighten the pagans, and the glory of your people Israel”, and this has been sung for centuries the world over at evening prayer services – Compline in the first instance, but later also as the second canticle at Evening Prayer (or Evensong) in the Anglican/Episcopalian tradition.
So then, these are the three Biblical events that inspire Candlemas: the Presentation, the Purification, and the Meeting. If you’re wondering what links these events with the blessing of the candles, it’s Simeon’s reference to Jesus being ‘the light to lighten the Gentiles’. There is also a tradition that says that Mary carried a candle, as she processed to the Temple – you see that in a lot of the artistic depictions of this scene, though that is another embellishment that can, indeed, be attributed to the flights of fancy of the Italian painters of the High Renaissance!
The celebration of candles and light probably also comes from an event in the natural world on Candlemas Day – another link with the pre-Christian, pagan religions: this is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox; the moment at which spring – just barely – begins to impinge, and the very first signs of new life appear. You might well be familiar with the rhyme: “If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, winter soon will pass away.” This is entirely appropriate, because it’s rather what happens with the people in these stories. Mary comes out of her post-natal seclusion. Simeon awakens to new hope. For both, life begins to stir, and the end of a spiritual or emotional winter is in sight.
And that is God’s promise to us on this, and every Candlemas Day: that whatever we’re going through, light and hope will win out in the end over darkness and despair. Never have we needed that message more than in this time of the Covid pandemic! Winter isn’t over by any stretch of the imagination in the Northern hemisphere – indeed, we’ve had a sharp reminder of that only these past weeks here in Thailand – more so in other parts of South-East Asia, and we still have the long season of Lent ahead of us, before we reach the fullness of spring, and the rebirth of Easter, but for now we have the traditional blessing of the candles, to remind us of God’s promise to see us through the darkness, and lead us into the light. ‘Light’, you may recall, was the great buzz-word of Advent, and Jesus is indeed the light of the world. Let us pray therefore, that the light of the gospel will shine in all our hearts, and that for us, Jesus will truly be the light which will guide us on our way, in the joy of his service. Amen.
THE NICENE CREED
Please stand for the Nicene Creed.
Let us together affirm the faith of the Church.
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
and became truly human.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Let us pray for the world and for the Church:
Prayers of intercession are now said and at the end of each prayer the priest says:
Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
Lord hear us,
Lord graciously hear us
At the conclusion of the prayers the priest says:
Almighty God, who has promised to hear our prayers.
Grant that what we have asked in faith we may by your grace receive, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Jesus said: Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God is steadfast in love and infinite in mercy, welcoming sinners and inviting them to the Lord’s table.
Let us confess our sins in penitence and faith, confident in God’s forgiveness.
Merciful God, our maker and our judge, we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, and in what we have failed to do: we have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbours as ourselves; we repent and are sorry for all our sins, Father forgive us, strengthen us to love and obey you in newness of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Almighty God, who has promised forgiveness to all who turn to him in faith, pardon you and set you free from all your sins, strengthen you in all goodness and keep you in eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The congregation stands.
We are the Body of Christ.
His Spirit is with us.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you.
Please greet each other with a sign of peace.
HYMN: In his temple now behold him, See the long-expected Lord;
In his temple now behold him,
See the long-expected Lord;
Ancient prophets had foretold him,
God has now fulfilled his word;
Now to praise him, his redeemed
Shall break forth with one accord.
In the arms of her who bore him,
Virgin pure, behold him lie,
While his aged saints adore him
‘Ere in faith and hope they die.
See th’incarnate God most high.
Jesus, by your Presentation,
When they blessed you, weak and poor,
Make us see our great salvation,
Seal us with your promise sure,
And present us in your glory
To your Father, cleansed and pure.
Prince and author of salvation,
Be your boundless love our theme!
Jesus, praise to you be given,
By the world you did redeem,
With the Father and the Spirit,
Lord of majesty supreme.
Blessed are you, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have these gifts to share. Accept and use our offerings for your glory and the service of your kingdom.
Blessed be God forever.
Let us pray
We do not presume to come to your table, merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table, but you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us. Amen.
EUCHARISTIC PRAYER C
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The Lord be with you.
and also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give thanks and praise.
Father, we give you thanks and praise through your beloved Son Jesus Christ, your living Word, through whom you have created all things; who was sent by you in your great goodness to be our Saviour.
By the power of the Holy Spirit he took flesh; as your Son, born of the blessed Virgin, he lived on earth and went about among us; he opened wide his arms for us on the cross; he put an end to death by dying for us; and revealed the resurrection by rising to new life; so he fulfilled your will and won for you a holy people.
Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we proclaim your great and glorious name, for ever praising you and saying:
Holy, holy, holy Lord God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.
Lord, you are holy indeed, the source of all holiness; grant that by the power of your Holy Spirit, and according to your holy will, these gifts of bread and wine may be to us the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ; who, in the same night that he was betrayed, took bread and gave you thanks; he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.
In the same way, after supper he took the cup and gave you thanks; he gave it to them, saying: Drink this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.
Great is the mystery of faith:
Christ has died:
Christ is risen:
Christ will come again.
And so, Father, calling to mind his death on the cross, his perfect sacrifice, made once for the sins of the whole world; rejoicing in his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, and looking for his coming in glory, we celebrate this memorial of our redemption.
As we offer you this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, we bring before you this bread and this cup and we thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you. Send the Holy Spirit on your people and gather into one in your kingdom all who share this one bread and one cup, so that we, in the company of [N and] all the saints, may praise and glorify you for ever, through Jesus Christ our Lord; by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
Let us pray with confidence to the Father, as our Saviour has taught us:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
O Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace.
We break this bread to share in the body of Christ.
Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread.
This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world;
Happy are those who are called to his supper.
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
After Communion the celebrant and the congregation say
Let us pray.
Father of all we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us in this hope that we have grasped; so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name.
Father, we offer ourselves to you as a living sacrifice through Jesus Christ our Lord. Send us out in the power of your Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord: and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be amongst you and remain with you always.
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.
HYMN: Faithful vigil ended, Watching, waiting cease;
Faithful vigil ended,
Watching, waiting cease;
Master, grant thy servant
His discharge in peace.
All thy Spirit promised,
All the Father willed;
Now these eyes behold it
This thy great deliverance
Sets thy people free;
Christ, their light, uplifted
All the nations see.
Christ, thy people’s glory!
Watching, doubting cease;
Grant to us thy servants
Our discharge in peace.
NOTE: The introductory music is Chorale Prelude: Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin – JS Bach This hymn is ‘proper’ to the day, and portrays Simeon ‘departing in peace’!
Here is the music for this week’s hymns, if you would like to practice beforehand.
Performed by Fr. David Price