As we stand in the present and look back, it is hard to believe that this time last year we were just beginning to wonder what restrictions we should put in place regarding sharing The Peace. Little did we know what lay ahead, and we remain acutely aware of uncertainty about the future.
Today as we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas), we focus on an event in which the pain and joy of past and future are drawn into the present in a place of hope (Luke 2: 22-38). For many years, through ups and downs, Simeon had held fast to the promises of God. Anna too was a holder of hope amid life’s grief and loss; and in this scene I love the coming together of people across the generations from the very young to the very old.
As the baby Jesus Christ is recognised and named as the long-awaited light for all people, the joy of the present is infused with pain as Simeon talks of Mary’s future pain when it will be as if a sword has pierced her heart and soul. So it is, that even now we are pointed to the Cross and Christ’s crucifixion as we bid farewell to Christmas and journey towards Lent.
Yet, as I said in my sermon in the Cathedral last Sunday, I believe that Mary, alongside Simeon and Anna, reveal what hope-shaped resilience looks like. It was not about denying their weariness, loss and struggles but it was about keeping a thankful heart with eyes fixed on the promises of God, and living each day with hope rooted in prayer.
In Luke’s gospel narrative, the presentation of Christ in the temple follows on from Luke’s telling of that first Christmas night and the shepherds’ visit to the holy family, and we are told of Mary treasuring and pondering the shepherds’ words and all that had taken place. It was that treasuring and pondering which enabled her to live hope-shaped resilience as the future unfolded.
As we live these present days, I pray that we will learn more about prayerful pondering as we look back and look forward with thanksgiving, holding fast to the hope we have in Christ as we replenish the treasure of God within our hearts, rooted in prayer.
As many of you will know, the Archbishops have called us once more to be persistent in prayer. The invitation is to pause each day at 6pm to join with people across the country to pray for our nation and beyond. It might also be a good time for pondering.
There is something powerful about people praying at the same time, but if 6pm does not work for you, then choose another time. There are simple prayer resources to use each day.
It is a time to lament, ponder and pray as we hold fast to our hope in Jesus Christ.
As ever, Bishop Robert and I continue to hold you in our prayers as we rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and weep with those who are weeping. (Romans 12:15.)