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Why We Celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

“God enters the temple not as a powerful ruler but as a little child in his Mother’s arms. The King of glory comes not with a show of human force and power, not with a great fanfare and noise, not causing fright and destruction. He comes into the temple as he came into the world, as an infant in silence, in poverty, and in the company of the poor and the wise.” – Pope John Paul II

On February 2, we observe the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, honoring Jesus Christ’s presentation in the Temple when he was a young child.

Simeon and the Presentation of the Lord portrayed in the Joyful Mysteries Chapel
The Fourth Joyful Mystery portrayed in the Presentation Chapel

Fulfillment of the Old Covenant

Jesus’ presentation in the Temple reflects how he fulfills the Old Covenant. According to Old Testament law, a sacrifice had to be offered in the Temple when a child was consecrated to the Lord. Mary and Joseph honor this tradition, as Luke 2:22-24 describes:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Simeon, a devout and upright man, had been told by the Lord he would meet the Messiah before his death. When Jesus comes to the Temple, we see the fulfillment of this prophecy. Simeon and the prophetess Anna, acting – in the words of Pope John Paul II – as “representatives of the Old Covenant” – recognize Jesus’ Lordship as Messiah in this culmination of their watchful waiting. When Simeon receives Jesus, he blesses him, and prophesies Jesus’ future as Savior, proclaiming him the Light of the world:

[H]e took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

 “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 sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.” – Luke 2:28-32

The Presentation of the Lord is portrayed in mosaic in the Rosary Walk and Garden

Living a Consecrated Life

On this day, we also reflect on the gift of consecrated life. While the momentary satisfaction of selfish living ultimately leads to emptiness, living a life of holiness, dedicated to God’s service, will give true contentment and peace. As Pope Francis has expressed 

Consecrated life is born and reborn of an encounter with Jesus as he is: poor, chaste and obedient… And while worldly life soon leaves our hands and hearts empty, life in Jesus fills us with peace to the very end, as in the Gospel, where Simeon and Anna come happily to the sunset of their lives with the Lord in their arms and joy in their hearts.

Depictions of the Presentation of the Lord in mosaic can be found in the West Apse of the Great Upper Church and in the Rosary Walk and Garden located outside the Basilica.


Butler’s Lives of Saints, ed. Bernard Bangley

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Honoring Saint Brigid, Patroness of Ireland, in the Basilica