Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Presentation of Our Lord

Your birth sanctified a Virgin's womb and properly blessed the hands of Symeon. Having now come and saved us O Christ our God, give peace to Your commonwealth in troubled times and strengthen those in authority, whomYou love, as only the loving One.

Kontakion (1st Tone)

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons on the Feast by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the sixth century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

Church hymnographers adorned this Feast with their hymns: St. Andrew of Crete in the seventh century; St Cosmas Bishop of Maium, St John of Damascus, and St Germanos Patriarch of Constantinople in the eighth century; and St. Joseph, Archbishop of Thessalonika in the ninth century.

On this day we also commemorate the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or "Symeon’s Prophecy". The Mother of God is depicted without Her Child, with seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar icon, "Of the Seven Swords" (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right.

The icon "Symeon’s Prophecy" symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Symeon: "a sword shall pierce through your own soul" (Luke 2:35).



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