It’s the Feast of the Presentation today! Also known as Candlemass.
Oh my. This day, this feast has such resonance for me, this year. I’m not sure I can even write it; not fully or well enough. It’s almost, almost, a little kick in my chest at the same time as a soft smile.
Rembrandt: "Simeon with the Christ Child"
But……this feast is when we remember, liturgically in our Catholic church, but also in our prayers and hearts, how Mary took her son, her baby, to the temple. She was dutifully fulfilling her obligation, as all good Jewish moms did, to present her baby boy to the temple elders. Little did she know what prophecy she was gonna run smack into. Little did she know she’d run into Simeon, Anna, and their words. And I’m guessing she was just gobsmacked by it all. I would’a been. I would have been really rattled. But, then again, I’m just me. I’m figuring she was held up by a waterfall of grace and maybe a few guardian angels to keep her on her feet and find her breath.
There is so much to this event, this feast. Go, read.
But this is where it gets a little personal. Because, this year, I’ve spent, well, the past year, mulling over this entire concept: presenting. Presenting my son to the Lord. Because that’s what I did. I know, I know, ya’ll will shout at me and say, um, “HE chose this, not you.” “I KNOW Mary, and you Ma’am, are NO Mary.” “I know Jesus, and I know your son Chris, and he is not Jesus.” I know. Shhh. Stop shouting and pointing. I’m NOT saying that.
What I’m saying is that I, a regular old mom, literally took my son, my firstborn, and presented him back to the the Lord. I hugged him tight. I shook hands with the other priests and novices and hugged them as I choked back tears and yet they welled behind my sunglasses. I watched his father hoist his few chosen possessions out of our car and into waiting helping hands. I stood aside as I watched him, getting edgy, wait to hug his dad, me. I watched him hug his dad goodbye.
The tears overflowed, I bowed my head. I hugged him tight, kissed him, crossed his forehead, again. Pressed my cheek to his and then gave him a weak smile as his dad and I grabbed hands and turned to go; letting him go. I felt that pierce of my heart. Even as I felt that swell of love too, knowing that he was going to God and to answer his call.
I let him go. That’s what presenting is, isn’t it? In many ways, I think so. You present and let go. You don’t present something and wrap it up tight and keep it hidden away. You present it and let go. Open your hands. Let go. We miss him so. Some days more than others. But it’s also a great joy to see him happy and taking on a whole new mantle, add a layer to who he is and who he is becoming. But, my hands are open now; having presented him, I love him, but let go.
So. It’s a gift this feast. For me, I can unwrap this gift in a new and fuller and more meaningful poignant way than ever before. Even more so than last year, when I knew, I knew, this presentation was approaching. Now I have done it. I am not Mary. My son is just my boy, my dear son, now a man. But. Just as any family can model in a tiny fractionated shadowy way the truths in our faith and life, so to can my messy family in our teeny way. So, today, I get a gift of remembering that other mothers, so many, have given their child back to God. The Blessed Mother did it, not only because it was prophesied …. but perhaps so we could have the courage to do so as well.
Today I am grateful for this feast. It means so much. To us all, yes. But, oh, so much, to me.