Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Epiphany Day

Epiphany literally means "to reveal or make manifest."  God revealed His son to the world, shining light into the darkness.  Today, the 12th Day of Christmas, is Epiphany Day, and I'd like to revisit the final story of Christ's Nativity - the day of purification at the Temple in Jerusalem.
"And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, "Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and  blessed God and said, 
"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.  And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."  Luke 2:22-38.

This is such a fantastic story, for we are seeing the fulfillment of hope from the previous age - as represented by Simeon and Anna - and the hope for the present and coming age, as shown by the prophecy of Simeon and the witness of Anna.  All the Bible tells us of Simeon is that he was righteous and devout, filled with the Spirit and awaiting Israel's consolation.  It doesn't say that he was a priest or a Pharisee or anyone of particular position.  Anna was a woman of even less position, apparently, for she was a longtime widow from the tribe of Asher.  Asher had dwindled significantly in size since the Babylonian Captivity, and her father, Phanuel, bore a Hebrew name denoting 'shame'.  But, even these things showed the good news of Christ's coming to us, for He came to the most unlikely of people, to the least and the last, to Shepherds, wanderers, and those of no position - those in need of a Savior.  This is the Good News of Epiphany!

While searching out art works on Epiphany, I came across so many I liked that it was hard to choose only a couple.  This fantastic story is so beautifully and joyously represented by artists through the centuries, so I've posted an Epiphany tour for you.  Enjoy, and Happy Epiphany!  The Light of the world is revealed!                         Simeon's Moment - Ron Dicianni                     Simeon in the Temple - RembrandtPresentation of Jesus in the Temple - RembrandtJesus presented in the Temple - Unknown childrens' Bible illustratorPresentation of Jesus in the Temple - RembrandtSimeon in the Temple - Julius Schnorr von CarolsfeldThe Presentation in the Temple - Pieter Jozef Verhaghen          Presentation of Christ in the Temple - Quentin VarinThe Presentation in the Temple - Philippe de ChampaigneThe Presentation of Jesus in the Temple - Unknown: Master connected to the Reformation Era writings (Note the depiction of the sword through Mary's soul.)                       Presentation in the Temple - Simon Vouet                                  St. Anna - James Tissot                       The Aged Simeon - James Tissot    The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple - James TissotAnd finally, this beautiful Triptych, The Presentation in the Temple by Rogier van der Weyden, presents the full nativity story from Annunciation to the Presentation.  

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