The Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas because of the candles that are blessed today, has always been one of my favorite stories. Particularly, I love the figures of Simeon and Anna. Can you imagine waiting your whole life for the Messiah and then entering the Temple and finding him in the form of a tiny, forty-day-old baby? So many other people must have seen sweet baby Jesus sleeping in the arms of his mother and walked right by him. But not Simeon and Anna.
Simeon and Anna were able to recognize Jesus because they had been preparing their hearts through prayer, fasting, and a life of righteousness. Because of their dedication to the laws of God, God is present with them in a unique way. It is the presence of God that allows them to see so clearly who Jesus truly is—the light of the world.
Many times as mothers, we aren’t able to see the light of Christ. We get bogged down in behavior issues, picky eating, whining, laundry, homework, or, more seriously, issues of mental or physical health. It is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead, we feel surrounded by darkness. But this darkness isn’t what is real. The reality is the LIGHT. The reality is Christ.
St. Teresa of Calcutta knew this better than most. Despite her life of prayer, fasting, and righteousness, despite her dedication to the poorest of the poor, she was not bathed in light. Instead, she found herself enveloped in darkness. Her “dark night of the soul” lasted for years and defined her life to such an extent that she knew if she became a saint, she would be called to help those in darkness.
“If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness,’” wrote St. Teresa. “I will continually be absent from Heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
Even without the daily assurance that she was treading the right path, St. Teresa devoted herself to prayer, sacrifice, and service to others. Just like Simeon and Anna who kept praying and hoping, St. Teresa of Calcutta remained a steadfast witness to the Light.
So, too, we mothers are called to be witnesses to the light of Christ. At times, we will wait and wait and wait like Simeon and Anna. At times, we will work in darkness like St. Teresa of Calcutta. Throughout all these times, may we imitate the holy witness of these saints and remain patient, steadfast watchers. And, lest we forget who makes this vigil possible, we must attend to the words of St. Paul to the Hebrews: “Because he [Jesus] himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Letter to the Hebrews 2:18).
That sweet forty-day-old baby grew up to be a man who chose suffering for our sake. He chose suffering so that when we endure our own suffering, our own darkness, we are not alone. He is with is, lighting the way.
Prayer: Dear Lord, help me feel at peace with the vigil you have asked me to keep. Help my darkness be brief. Bathe me in your light. Give me peace so that at the end of my life, I may pray with Simeon, “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32).