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, to offer the sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, He 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.”
The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted –and you yourself a sword will pierce– so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
The Gospel of the Lord.
by Sr. Sharon McMillan, SNDdeN
It was on this very day, Françoise writes in her Memoirs, that St. Julie and all the Sisters of the community were gathered together in the workroom of the house in Amiens. At some point, Julie leads them “with her usual fervor” in singing the section of today’s Gospel known as the Nunc dimittis: Simeon’s blessing of God whose long-awaited salvation is now incarnate in the tiny child he cradles in his arms. Françoise continues to describe the scene for us: “as she was singing the words [a light for revelation to the Gentiles], her gaze was lifted to the crucifix, she stopped singing, and her eyes became fixed on the image of our Lord, who seemed to draw her to himself from the depths of her soul.”
What was it that Julie experienced in those moments, and what might we imagine that she wants to share with us today from her experience?
Was she filled with awe at the goodness of God whose promised salvation now extended to peoples of every tribe and tongue, to peoples of every culture and way of life? Is she seeing in her mind’s eye and heart you and me and us: Sisters, Associates, and friends, being and bringing this light from the workroom in Amiens to the far corners of the world?
Is she hearing the litany, like the harmony of far-off bells, of names of future light-bearers of Notre Dame? Does she want us too to be caught up in wonder and gratitude that her Sisters for generations to come would appear as a rich tapestry woven of families known as, for example, Kilosa, Mutuba, Chukwu, and Watanabe; Weynandt, Gallagher, Marfoli, Van der Maat, and Da Silva Gaia; Rivera Jara, Murphy, Romejko, and Bermingham?
Or is Julie inviting us into her contemplation of the contrast between the vulnerable child, Jesus (whom the evangelist Luke reveals is the Most High God who has come into his Temple) with the crucified and risen Lord imaged in the crucifix in the workroom? Does she want us to surrender in trust as she did to that love that brings life out of death, that brings confident striding forward out of paralysis?
Françoise remembers that during those moments “light radiated from her countenance.” Was Julie seeing the future light-bearers of Notre Dame — Sisters, Associates, and friends — who would receive this Christ light from other Sisters, Associates, and friends, and witness to this light by our lives as well as by our words, trusting that this light will never go out?
On this blessed Feast, let us remember one another in prayer and in gratitude. Let us ask Julie for a share in her own union with her good God. And let us help each other be and bring this light, allowing Jesus, crucified and risen, to draw us to him from the depths of our soul for the sake of the life of the world. Happy Feast Day!
About Sr. Sharon
Sr. Sharon lives in Monterey, California, and is thoroughly enjoying her teaching for the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries for the local Jesuit University, Santa Clara. Read more about her life here.