Reflections for

First Sunday after Christmas, Dec 31, 2017

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Isaiah 61:10-62:3; Psalm 148; Galatians 4:4-7; Luke 2:22-40

On Art

Presentation in the Temple, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (fl. ca. 1311–1348)

Ambrogio Lorenzetti created a profound visual interpretation of Jesus’ presentation in the temple. The viewer’s eyes (along with the eyes of most of the figures) are drawn to the character of Simeon, an older, bearded man, holding the Christ child in his arms. Mary holds the child’s white blanket, but her attention is directed to the child. Two women behind her look at Simeon, the only figure whose clothing depicts movement. Joseph seems to have just stopped a gesture with his hand. Likewise, the High Priest’s sacrificial act is arrested. Just as Luke combined two separate rituals, the purification and the presentation, into a single event (2:22–40), so Ambrogio telescoped two separate elements in the narrative, Simeon’s song (Nunc Dimittis) and Anna’s prophecy, into a single epiphany. While Anna is holding her prophetic scroll (which begins with the words et haec ipsa hora, “at that moment”), Simeon opens his mouth to speak. For Ambrogio, his patrons and his audience, this event was not simply a historical moment preserved in time. The viewer is invited to proclaim with Simeon: “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation!”

Poetry

Christmas Eve

Luke 2:35

Adam’s rib was Christmas Eve
Foreshadow of a pierced side
Who pulling down forbidden fruit
Set fast in motion Yuletide.

Joseph’s bride was Second Eve
Endowed with gift of pierced soul
Who bowing down to own his will
Joined God in making wounded whole.

Poetry

Pietà

He roamed quarries at Carrara
caressing blocks of marble, tracing veins
like a blind man
to find the Virgin within. Here,
the limp arm hangs; here,
the bent head of the mother;
here, her murdered son.

He coaxed her from stone
chiseling in her face the memory of
Simeon's prophecy of a sword piercing her heart:
a wholly inadequate portent for this,
this hammer of death
harder than marble.

 

Revised Common Lectionary © 1992 the Consultation on Common Texts. Used by permission.