“You don’t grow anything,” he said. This after he had asked which of us were gardeners and what we grew in our gardens, to which some had replied roses and others tomatoes or herbs… It was, apparently, a trick question. “You choose the sight. You cultivate the earth. You plant, fertilize and water. Then you wait. The growing is up to God. Your job is to create conditions in which the waiting is likely to be fruitful.”
Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. It commemorates the day when Mary and Joseph take the 40 day old Jesus to the temple for the purification rights. There they are met by two people who have been expecting him…
Simeon is described by Luke as righteous and devout. God had promised him he would not die til he had seen “the Lord’s Messiah”. He is moved by the Spirit to come to the temple on this very day, and he recognizes the child at once. He takes him in his arms and speaks prophetic words over him, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel…the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” He acknowledges his wait is gloriously at an end with the beautiful words that form the benediction of our vesper services:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Today is a day of encouragement for all those who wait. A reminder that, though you may not see it yet, God is at work. That your job–my job–is to create conditions in which the waiting is likely to be fruitful. Perhaps we should take our cue from Anna. Worshiping, fasting, praying….
Hold on, dear ones! Spring is coming. Be on the look out for tiny shoots of promise.
*The garden illustration is borrowed and paraphrased from Father Stephen’s homily last night. The story of the presentation can be found in the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, beginning with verse 22.