Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Do We "Church" a Baby?

Like many have witnessed on Sunday, either before, during, or after the Divine Liturgy, the priest walks towards the Narthex and meets a mother and new-born child. This "churching" is beloved by all (really, who doesn't love seeing a new baby and the smiling faces of their parents?)! But its not just a "grand" appearance for the family's sake; there is a deep meaning for one's life in this service. It is an offering unto God who bestows all blessings and gifts upon us (i.e. the birth of a child) and the readmittance of a mother back into the Life of the Church. 

The Great Feast of the Presentation of our Lord into the Temple is celebrated on February 2nd in the Life of the Church as described by the Gospel according to St Luke 2:22-40. Forty days after His birth the God-Infant was taken to the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the nation's religious life. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple of God for forty days. At the end of this time the mother came to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb or pigeon to the Lord as a purification sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity without defilement. However, she humbly fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

Presentation of our Lord into the Temple
Image Source

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he should behold the promised Messiah. By inspiration from above, St Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and St Joseph had brought the Infant Jesus to fulfill the Law.

The God-Receiver Simeon took the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32). St Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was the 84-year-old widow Anna the Prophetess, daughter of Phanuel (February 3), "who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day. She arrived just when St Simeon met the divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem" (Luke 2:37-38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: "This Child has established Heaven and earth."

Before Christ was born, righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous people of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet the Savior in the Temple.

Cited Source

Wishing you and your family a blessed Great Feast of the Presentation of our Lord into the Temple!

- A Day in the Life of the Youth Director

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