Nearly a decade ago, we celebrated the Year of the Priest. As a Diocese, we decided that there would be three special masses, in Dundee, Perth, and Alloa, to which everyone would be invited.
For me, of the three, the celebration in St Mungo’s Alloa was most memorable. Arranged by the then parish priest, the late Canon Michael Milton, it took place on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
The combination of a beautiful church and the procession of a large number of priests and people holding candles and singing the entrance hymn set the scene and engendered an atmosphere of reverence and joy.
There is something about a procession that captures peoples’ attention, and, in the Church, we do it better than anyone, especially when we do it with candles.
I suppose it is because when we move we are doing something intentional, deliberate. We are signaling with our bodies that we are willing. Also, movement gathers people: when you see something moving you feel the urge to join in.
The Eastern Rite Churches and the Churches in Africa are perhaps a little better at this than we are in the West. The various processions at different parts of their liturgies renew a sense of purpose in prayer; more engaging than our rather static approach.
When we move, we present ourselves and we signify the whole idea of pilgrimage. We remind ourselves that we are people on the move with a destination in mind. We physically allow the Breath of God to blow in our sails.
Now you can let your servant go in peace
The Nunc Dimittisis my favourite New Testament canticle (maybe because it’s the shortest). These are the words uttered by the prophet Simeon when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. This act of bringing, of presenting, of offering, symbolized everything Jesus is, the Son who does the will of his Father and journeys back to him bringing us with him.
Simeon, that faithful old man, rejoiced that the promise of God to his people had been fulfilled and he could now go to his God and Father in peace and contentment: his life had indeed counted for something, he had seen salvation.
Christ, the Light and Journeyer
We call Jesus the Light of the World. This is because he illumines our journey, gives us purpose. The Breath of God inspires and urges us on, but it is the Spirit of Christ and bears his word and direction.
The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus is the last Feast of Christmas, bringing to an end, for some churches, the period known as Epiphanytide, the revelation of Christ as light of the nations. It’s a good opportunity for reflecting on ‘getting back to normal’, because the norm is journeying with Christ and following his light.
We often think of prayer as static: we kneel or sit in one place, not moving. Prayer can also be movement. Walking is a good way of clearing the mind or working something out.
The next time you take a walk, why not think about your relationship with God and others?
By the end of the walk, some things will be clearer. The Rosary is often better prayed while walking.