“It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. “You fell,” it is written, “now arise”(cf. Prov. 24:16). And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach, will suffice for your salvation. “For at one time we ourselves went astray in our folly and disobedience,” says St. Paul. “… Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy” (Tit. 3:3,5).”
–St. Peter of Damascus
“Repentance raises the fallen, mourning knocks at the gate of heaven, and holy humility opens it…”
–St. John the Ladder; “The Ladder of Divine Ascent” (Step 25)
“And so, my friends, accept whatever the Lord sends with a willing spirit and do not groan at what is imposed on you, for why should you feel joy at being part of a crowd or pain at being excluded from it? Rather we should do everything to ensure that we are not excluded from the city of God.”
St. Basil the Great
We shall soon arrive at the Fortieth Day since the Nativity of Our Saviour. In fulfillment of the Law, Our Lady, the Mother of God together with Joseph, bring Our Saviour to the Temple, and there takes place the Encounter of the Lord with Saint Symeon and Saint Anna the Prophetess. Saint Symeon beholding Him, reveals that Christ is a ‘light of revelation to the Nations, and the glory of Thy people Israel.’
This Monday is the great Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, and we will celebrate with the All-night Vigil and Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral on Sunday night. At that celebration, we will also keep the very ancient tradition of blessing candles which we will then distribute to the faithful.
As we all prepare for the Feast, please read this short excerpt from a Homily of Saint Sophronius of Jerusalem which he gave on this day back in the early seventh century.
Many Years for the Feast!
On Blessing Candles for the Feast of the Meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple
By St. Sophronius of Jerusalem + 638 AD
Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of His eternal light. Our candles also show how bright our souls should be when we go to meet Christ.
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.
The true Light has come, the light that enlightens every man who is born into this world. Let all of us, my brethren, be enlightened and made radiant by this light. Let all of us share in its splendour, and be so filled with it that no one remains in the darkness. Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Symeon the Light whose brilliance is eternal.
Rejoicing with Symeon, let us sing a hymn of thanksgiving to God, the Father of the light, who sent the true Light to dispel the darkness and to give us all a share in his splendour.
Through Symeon’s eyes we too have seen the salvation of God which he prepared for all the nations and revealed as the glory of the new Israel, which is ourselves. As Simeon was released from the bonds of this life when he had seen Christ, so we too were at once freed from our old state of sinfulness.
By faith we, too embraced, Christ, the salvation of God the Father, as he came to us from Bethlehem. Gentiles before, we have now become the people of God. Our eyes have seen God incarnate, and because we have seen him present among us and have mentally received him into our arms, we are called the new Israel.
Never shall we forget this presence; every year we keep a feast in His honour.