The History of the Feast

The Presentation of Jesus at the TempleThe Orthodox feast “The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple” is celebrated on the forty day after the Birth of Jesus Christ in commemoration of the event, when the Virgin brought Jesus Christ to the Temple on the 4forty day after His Birth.

Since the time of Jews’ release from the Egyptian captivity the law was settled that every firstborn male belonged to God and the parents had to bring the baby to the Temple on the forty day after its birth. According to this law the woman, who gave a birth to a baby, considered to be unclean during 40 days after the birth of boy and 80 days after the birth of girl. After this time ended every mother had to bring to the church a sacrifice – a one year old lamb, as a sign of recognition of the highest God’s power and gratitude to it. And also she had to bring a pigeon or a turtledove as a sacrifice to clean all sins. If a woman was poor and did not have the opportunity to buy a lamb, she brought two turtledoves. And only after the ceremony the woman considered to be pure (Lev. XII:1-8). The Holy Virgin was sanctified by the Christ Birth and she did not need a ceremony of purification. But she was in obedience to God and she executed the law and brought two turtledoves (Luke II:23-24).

When the Virgin Mary together with Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple they were met by on old grey-headed Simeon, who waited to meet God for very long time. As it is told in the Gospel Simeon did the translation of the Holy Writ from Yiddish to the Greek language long before this meeting. And when he saw the words “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (Isaiah VII:14) he decided that it was a mistake and instead of the word “virgin” he wanted to put a word “wife”. But at the moment he decided to correct the “mistake” the God’s Angel appeared to him and said that there were no mistakes and Simeon would be able to see the truth of this prophecy with his own eyes. He was waiting 300 years to see that the promise was true. And finally inspired by the Holy Spirit he came to the Temple, where Mary and Joseph brought the Baby Jesus. And happened next:

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; or 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.” (Luke II:27-32)

Before the death old Simeon said that a Baby, whom he finally saw, would come and serve to save people.

The second person, who met Jesus in the Temple, was a prophetess Anna. Here are the words from the Gospel:

“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, 37 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 II:36-38 )

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. (Luke II:39)

The feast of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple was started in Jerusalem in the second half of the fourth century. The first reference about it was made by the intrepid nun Egeria in her diary. She called it “The fortieth day after the Epiphany”. Its celebration described in such way:

The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honor, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day.” (Chapter 26)

From Jerusalem the feast was spread in the East, but only from VI century – the time of Emperor Justinian (527-565), it became especially important. Emperor Justinian gave an order to set the feast “The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple” as a great feast and solemnly celebrate it all over the kingdom. That is why the church prays for the Emperor several times during the divine services.

The feast “The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple” is one of the twelve Great Feasts. Originally in the West this a Great Feast of the Lord. Much later it became Great Feast of the Theotokos with the name: The Purification of Holy Virgin Mary or the Sacrifice of Jesus in the temple. Within the Roman Catholic Church, since the liturgical revisions of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of Presentation of the Lord. But in the Eastern Christianity this feast belongs to a Great Feast of the Theotokos and called “The Presentation of the Holy Virgin at the Temple”.

Traditions of the feast

According to the folk belief summer meets winter  15th February, in the day of The Presentation of Jesus at the TempleIn the day of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple water and candles are sanctified in the churches of Ukraine. The candles which were sanctified this day were called "hromychna", because people fired them during a thunderstorm, to secure people and cattle from thevthunder. The same candles were in hands of dying while reading prayer for the dying. In the day of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, when people returned from a church, they fired "hromychna" candle, in order «that a spring flood did not injure the crops, and frost did not injure the trees ". Because of the name "hromychna candle" the feast was called "Hromytsia" some time ago.

When the water was sanctified, people put it into the new - not used yet - vessel, brought home and saved intently. It was said that water has magic force. People said that it was healing water. People put it on a raw place and believed that it would help. The best usage of the water was to save people from an “evil eye”.

According to the folk belief summer meets winter twice in a year: on 15th February, in the day of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple and on 22nd Decembers, in the day of Saint Ann. People considered the Winter to be an old women, and Summer to be a young girl. On the holiday of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple an old grandfather Frost arms Winter, she is bowed, she joggles and trogs. The mantle of Winter is patched; the shoes are tattered, and mouse made holes in the kerchief on her head, and grey hair sticks out from those holes. Winter carries a slightly pecky basket with ice in her hands, and an empty bag on her shoulders. Merry and beautiful girl Summer goes toward, she has chaplet on her head, shirt embroidered with flowers and green plahta. Summer carries a sickle and sheaf of rye and wheat in her hands.

When old Winter meets young Summer they start to argue - who should go further, and who should return. If it becomes warmer till the evening, the Summer wins the Winter, and if it is vice versa the winner is Winter. "…But despite all she (winter) efforts the summer will smile, and the sun shines, wind blows and the earth wakes up"! - sais Oleksa Voropai in his book “Traditions of our people” about the meeting of winter and summer.

A lot of signs which help to make some predictions for the whole year are connected with this feast.

The divine nature of the feast

The meeting of the Old and New TestamentsThe name of the feast came from the fact of meeting of God’s Son, Holy Virgin with religious Simeon. Spiritually this meeting is a symbol of the meeting of the Old and New Testaments.

The name of the grey-headed man, who met the Holy Virgin with Baby Jesus was Simeon, in translation that means “listening”.

Simeon is the example of the Old Testament prophets, who listened to God’s voice, understood and worshiped God’s will; they predicted and sermonized about the coming of Messiah – God’s Son, who would bring to the fallen humanity the New Testament of Love and Mercy.

The nature of the Old Testament Church was in Law through the fear to God. You had to keep all laws step by step even if you do not understand them. It was a faith in One Father God, which was built on the fear of confession; it helped to lead people with slave mentality to the religious life.

The New Testament Church in the image of the Holy Virgin gave people the saving faith in the image of Jesus Christ, that is higher that a Law, because it carries in itself the understanding of Love, Forgiveness, Mercy. The person should have a desire to save, should understand why he lives; he has to understand the mission of his life in his own will and to get the God’s mercy. The person has to accept the Lord with all heart, not only with a cold mind, to go out of the state of slavery and return the Image and Likeness to become the true daughter or son of the Light.

Peculiarities of celebration in the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Feast «The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple»On forty day after Christmas the cycle of Christmas holidays is completed with the feast The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

The spirit of the church-office of The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is the same as the spirit of Christmas and Epiphany: to glorify Epiphany on Earth and Virgin Maria, as a Mother of God. Young Child, who was brought to the temple - is the Eternal God, who gave a law to Moses on the mountain of Synai: "Today that One, - we sing, - who once gave a law to Moses on Synai, submits for us to the laws, because he has mercy to us... Today Simeon takes Lord on hands, the one whom saw Moses in darkness, when he gave the tables on the Synai mountain... The Creator of Heaven and Earth today is on hands of the old man Simeon".