The Sound of Silence.
The Sixth Day of Christmas.
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I John 2: 12-17.
• Psalm 96: 7-10.
• Luke 2: 36-40.
First & third lessons from the Second Mass of Christmas, Gradual from the Third Mass, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Titus 3: 4, 7.
• Psalm 97: 3-4, 2.
• Luke 2: 15-20.
8:02 AM 12/30/2017 — The Roman Missal is certainly giving Saint Luke’s account of the Presentation a lot of play these days. Yesterday, we heard, for the second time in as many weeks, his report of our Lord’s encounter with Simeon in the Temple; today we hear, from the same episode, His subsequent encounter with the prophetess Anna; tomorrow, on the Feast of the Holy Family, this year being the second of the Sunday cycles, we’ll hear the two halves of the one visit to the Temple combined; and, then we’ll hear the whole thing again in February on the Feast of the Presentation itself.
Anna is a prophetess in the likeness of Miriam, the sister of Moses, living close to God in prayer. She was a prophetess not in the sense of predicting the future, but rather in speaking in the place of God and with His voice. Remember that widows dedicating their service to God had a special place of honor in Israel, as they did in the early Church. Remember, if you will, what we’ve observed about Saint Luke’s thoughtful narrative about the early years of our Lord, constantly connecting them to themes from the Old Testament. He concludes the episode by telling us…
And now, when all had been done that the law of the Lord required, they returned to Galilee, and to their own town of Nazareth. And so the child grew and came to his strength, full of wisdom; and the grace of God rested upon him (2: 39-40 Knox).
The last verse he lifts word-for-word from the story of Samuel (cf. I Sam. 2: 21), who also grew up in the service of the Lord. Later, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke will use the same words to describe the growth of the early Church. He completely passes over the flight into Egypt, mentioned by the other Evangelists, telling us simply that the family returned to Nazareth, without bothering to tell us from where they return. That’s because it’s not important to the point Luke wants to make.
Remember that Luke, while he was an Evangelist, was never an apostle; he never met our Lord. He was converted to the faith by Saint Paul, and wrote his Gospel at the command of Saint Peter. What he was able to write about our Lord’s childhood he learned from our Blessed Mother, whom he met only after our Lord’s ascension, and to Whom he was particularly close in Her elder years. Mary could have, I suppose, told him so much about their home life in Nazareth—our Lord’s first steps as a toddler, His first spoken words, His life as an adolescent, a teenager, a young adult—but all this is passed over and never mentioned, except for the one episode of the Finding in the Temple. Most likely she did share all this with this doctor-turned-disciple who became Her special friend in Her declining years; but, Luke withholds all this from us, and prefers to leave all these years of our Lord’s life silent, in part because it simply isn’t important with regard to the principle message of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery which Saint Peter has commanded him to record, and partly because it is something private between the Mother of God and himself, and he will not betray a confidence. We don’t need to know the story or our Lord’s potty-training; we need only to know the story of our Lord’s death and resurrection.
Silence. The silence of an Evangelist respecting the privacy of the Mother of God … the silence we must cultivate in our own hearts as we pursue our own mystical union with God. Sometimes God is silent with us, leaving us to wonder if maybe He has abandoned us, when we feel our prayers have gone unanswered. They haven’t been, of course; but, as Saint Paul said, faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the reality of things unseen (cf. Heb. 11: 1).