The Consecration of the Family To and In Imitation of the Holy Family, Holy Family (B), December 28, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Holy Family, Year B
December 28, 2014
Sir 3:2-6.12-14, Ps 128, Col 3:12-21, Lk 2:22-40

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following text guided the homily: 

The Family as a School of Redemption and Sanctification

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, which is a tremendous gift each year to ponder the importance and meaning of the family. It’s highly significant that when the Son of God became man, when the Word became flesh, when the Light entered the world to shine in the midst of darkness, he chose to be conceived and born within a family of an already committed husband and wife. He could have come as a fully formed adult and immediately inaugurated his public ministry. He could have come as an 80 year old sage or at least at the age of 12 dazzling the scribes and priests in the Temple. But in his divine wisdom he chose to become a poor little baby, so that he could teach us not only how to become spiritually childlike and poor in spirit, but also so that he could teach us the importance of the family in God’s plan for salvation. In God’s plan, Jesus was born a baby within the family precisely to redeem the family because the family is meant to be an instrument of redemption. Every family is meant to be a holy family. As we rejoice in the opportunity Christmas gives us to have more time with the members of our families, as well as to recall the rich memories we have had with other family members for whom God has already come, it is important for us to do so within the context of the vocation each of our families has to be a real school of sanctification.

Jesus’ Consecration

We are now a month into the 14-month Year for Consecrated Life that Pope Francis has convoked, and, as we’ve been discussing, this special ecclesiastical year is meant to have an influence on everything we do throughout the Year. The Year for Consecrated Life provides us a very helpful prism with which to look at this feast of the Holy Family and the way the members of every family can strengthen each other in holiness. In the Gospel today we see how St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother brought Jesus to the temple in obedience to the law of the Lord that stipulates, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord.” The consecration of the first born son was a symbolic response of God’s people to the Covenant God had made with them; just as God had totally committed himself to Israel, so his people were committing themselves faithfully to God, were consecrating themselves totally to him and to their sacred family bond or covenant with him. So Mary and Joseph consecrated Jesus to God the Father, a consecration that would receive an immediate witness in the testimony of Simeon and Anna in today’s Gospel and a consecration Jesus himself would renew throughout his life, most famously during the Last Supper. It was a consecration that Mary and Joseph had already been living, for Mary had already consecrated her virginity to God from an early age and Joseph had consecrated himself to God not only as a “just man” but in the service of Jesus and Mary. The consecration of the Holy Family to God’s service is a model for the family of Israel and for every family in the Church.

The Consecration of the Family

During this Year for Consecrated Life, it’s important for every family to come back to the reality of consecration, both the consecration of individual members of the family to God as well as the consecration of the family as a whole to God. When families bring their newborns to be baptized, the deepest meaning of baptism is that it’s a total consecration of that son or daughter to God in imitation of Jesus’ consecration in the Temple. Just like in the redemption rite of we see in today’s Gospel in which the first born male was given back in the Temple to the God who have given him to his parents, being sacrificed to God vicariously either through a lamb or a pair of turtle doves, so when a family brings a child for baptism, the parents and godparents and all other family members are making a public act saying that the child belongs first to God, that the son or daughter is a Christian even before a Smith, or a Jones, or a Landry or a Medeiros. This is an essentially, a fundamental aspect of Christian life that we need to ponder much more during this Year for Consecrated Life, something we’ll do in two weeks as we celebrate the feast of the baptism of the Lord.

But today there’s another form of consecration we should ponder: the consecration of the family as a whole to God through the intercession of the Holy Family. This is an act of entrustment every family should do, and renew often, and the feast of the Holy Family is a great occasion each year to do so. Have you ever consecrated your family to God the Father through the intercession of the Holy Family of Bethlehem and Nazareth? There are many prayers of consecration to the Holy Family that a family could use that can be found in prayer books. A beautiful exercise would be for a family to make some time to pray together and to write their own formula of consecration to God through Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That’s what Pope Francis did last year on this feast day, a prayer he’s asked the families of the world to say together for the Synod on the Family that is taking place in 2014 and 2015 in the Vatican. But the one I like and recommend most is one found in the Catholic Family Handbook written by Fr. George Kelly, which I’d like to pray with you today, to give you a sense of what a prayer of consecration is like:

“O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, who, having come to enlighten the world with your teaching and example, willed to pass the greater part of your life in humility and subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously receive our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to you this day. Defend us, guard us and establish among us your holy reverence, true peace and harmony in Christian love: in order that by conforming ourselves to the divine pattern of your Family we may be able, all of us without exception, to attain to eternal happiness. Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and Mother of us, by your kind intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us his graces and blessings. Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, assist us by your prayers in all our spiritual and temporal needs; that we may be able to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and you, for all eternity.”

The traits of a family consecrated to God

Once a family has truly consecrated to God, once it has sincerely focused its attention on God’s plans for them to become a holy family and has committed itself to cooperate with God in making their home a place of redemption, the family’s behaviors begin to change. Their home begins to resemble many of the behaviors and virtues that we see in the communities of consecrated men and women. On the first Sunday of Advent, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and again at the Christmas Vigil and Christmas Midnight Masses, we focused on seven of those characteristics. These are seven traits that are all found in the Holy Family and they’re meant to be found in every family.

Prayer

The first characteristic of a consecrated family is prayer. A family consecrated to God centers their life around God, especially in prayer. We know that the Holy Family prayed. We read in the Gospels that the three of them would go regularly up to the Temple on the major feasts to pray. It was obvious that they also prayed a great deal at home, because when Jesus was caught among the teachers in the Temple at twelve, he was already capable of amazing them with his questions; Jesus became familiar with the Sacred Scriptures according to his humanity because both Mary and Joseph taught him Hebrew (like all Jews taught their children) by reading Sacred Scripture and meditating upon it with him.

Similarly any family that wants to be holy, that wants to be what God calls it to be, has to pray, has to center their lives around God, both going up to the temple to worship God as a family and turning their home into a temple where God is similarly adored.

So many families today, sadly, are not centered around God but around the television and computer games, or sports, or lessons of one sort or another, or work schedules. A consecrated family prioritizes God and especially prioritizes prayer over these other activities. “The family that prays together stays together,” as the Servant of God Fr. Patrick Peyton (buried in our diocese!) never tired of saying. It’s not enough for the members of the family to pray individually. They need to pray together.

I experienced the powerful impact of family prayer when I was growing up. My earliest memories are of praying the rosary together with my parents, my two brothers and my sister. This prayer wasn’t always convenient; at times we had to give up doing other things like going out to play or watching a favorite TV program; at other times we had difficulty concentrating or avoiding interruptions, but we stuck with it. We grew as a family in our prayer as we prayed for each other, prayed for family members in need, prayed for the priests of our parish, prayed for our public leaders and our country, prayed for friends and for those in need. We brought all of them to God in prayer. We were never more united that when we were praying and God united us as we together lifted up our hearts to Him. This prayer not only flowed from our consecration as a family to God but intensified our consecration.

Unselfish charity

The second sign of familial consecration is true love through unselfish charity, just as we see in communities of consecrated men and women and see in the Holy Family. The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph was holy because they really loved each other, which was not a sentimental thing: it means that they were all willing to lay down their lives for each other (Jn 15:13), to sacrifice themselves, their needs, even their lives for each other. Mary was willing to be stoned to death for being pregnant by some means other than by Joseph and remained faithful to her Son at the foot of the Cross, even when almost everyone else abandoned him. Joseph gave up his whole livelihood, his business, his home, his family of origin, to protect Jesus and Mary and flee with them to Egypt; he may have very well given up lots of personal plans and aspirations in marrying a virgin and protecting her virginity. Jesus obviously gave his life on the Cross for Joseph and Mary just as he gave it for all of us. Because of that willingness to die for each other in a supreme way, they grew to love each other in an infinite amount of smaller ways, one of the most important of which is the way that they would die to themselves and their wounds in forgiving each other. Even though Jesus was incapable of sin, Mary never chose to sin, and Joseph was a saint, there were misunderstandings among them, like we see when Jesus is found in the temple at the age of 12. There were things that needed to be forgiven and they all readily did so. Theirs is the model of unselfish, chaste, holy love that is meant to occur in every home.

In a family consecrated to the Lord, each of the family members is called to sacrifice for each other, to forgive each other, to bear each other’s burdens, to help each other out. This is what love really is. As St. Paul writes in today’s second reading, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. … And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” For a family to be holy, for it to live out its consecration, it must love in this way, and each of the members should strive to put into practice each of those imperatives.

Truly Wealthy through Spiritual Poverty

The third sign of consecration in a family is a clarity about how to become truly rich through embracing the spiritual poverty Jesus experienced and proclaimed. Those in a consecrated family recognize that they don’t need everything that Madison Avenue says they need. A family that belongs to God knows that God is the real treasure. We see this in the Holy Family: Mary and Joseph were literally dirt poor, Jesus was placed in an ancient animal dish, they needed to give two pigeons instead of a lamb at the Lamb of God’s presentation as we see in today’s Gospel, but none of this mattered much, because they were centered on Christ and hence Mary and Joseph grasped that they had it all.

Especially today in the United States, we need to confront how consumerism can destroy families, where the worship of the golden calf rather than the worship of God can become like a cancer corroding the bonds of love that ought to be present. Families need to help each other overcome the temptation toward materialism by seeking together the true treasure. This involves prioritizing spiritual gifts over material ones, prioritizing children over possessions, prioritizing giving things away to those who are needy rather than accumulating things through feigned needs. A consecrated family is a spiritually poor family regardless of the size of their bank accounts. They are marked by a generosity that resembles God’s generosity, that radiated in the total self-giving of Bethlehem and Nazareth.

A School of Freedom through Holy Obedience

The fourth trait of consecrated families is that they are a school of true freedom, a freedom that is developed not through doing whatever family members want — an anarchy that harms rather than strengthens a family — but through freely obeying each other out of love.

The Holy family of Bethlehem and Nazareth was holy because all the members of the family strived to do God’s will and to help each other to do God’s will. Mary said, in becoming God’s mother, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Joseph was constantly obeying God through the Angel, to take Mary as his wife, to flee with Mary and Jesus into Egypt, to return from Egypt after Herod’s death. Jesus’ whole life is a lesson in obedience, too. St. Luke summarized over half of Jesus’ life, the eighteen years from the time he was found in the Temple to the time he came to the Jordan and began his public ministry, in a sentence, that he was obedient to Mary and Joseph, growing in wisdom and understanding (Lk 2:51). Jesus, likewise, was obedient to His Heavenly Father even unto death on the Cross, saying amidst beads of bloody perspiration in the Garden, “Not my will, but yours be done.” The Holy Family was holy because each member always sought to do God’s will. It was holy because each of the members of the family tried to help the others in the family to do God’s will, too.

Likewise the members of every family consecrated to God are called to do the will of God and encourage each other to do so more readily and faithfully. Many families do this. They inspire each other to become holy, encourage each other to pray when they don’t want to, form them to please God above every other goal. Out of their loving obedience to God, they more readily obey each other as well, as God intends.

The Word of God calls families to this type of dual obedience in today’s readings. Sirach describes how children are supposed to obey their parents not as slaves obeying masters but with love, honor and reverence: “God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them.” St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians goes further. “Children,” he writes, “obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.” But obedience isn’t just for children. St. Paul calls wives to a loving obedience to their husbands, saying, “Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord,” and then in his letter to the Ephesians calls husbands to a total obedience of God, involving, among other things, laying down their lives to make their wives holy, crucifying themselves, and their egos and their will to help their family members become saints (Eph 5:25).

Some of the most beautiful conversions I’ve seen in the priesthood have occurred as a result of people helping their loved ones to obey God with them. In marriage preparation, I’ve repeatedly seen how the faith of the future bride or groom is so contagious that it inspires the other to start to take the faith much more seriously, getting the other to start to come to Mass, getting the other to start praying with him or her on the phone before they say good night, getting the other to start obeying those commandments that they other had been ignoring, and even on many occasions bringing people to convert to the Catholic faith altogether. I’ve also seen similar wonders happen, for example, when children in a family begin to take the faith much more seriously, bring their parents to a much better obedience of God and loving adhesion to each other. When children pray before they go to bed, often parents are so moved that they drop to their knees besides the children and begin praying much more sincerely. When children start to keep the third commandment, to forgive, to tell the truth and beyond, parents are often moved to be faithful to these commandments, too.

Today’s feast of the Holy Family is an opportunity for every family to see how they can help inspire others to be more faithful to God by becoming more obedient to God and to each other.

Living Eschatologically

The fifth characteristic of a consecrated family is living truly for the Kingdom, living as eschatological signs for each other and for other families and friends. The Holy Family lived for the kingdom. When St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother found Jesus in the Temple after three days of looking for him, Jesus said to them, “Did you not know that I needed to be doing my Father’s business?” Jesus was living for the Kingdom of his Father. They doubtless prayed together the words Jesus would teach us all, “Thy kingdom come!” They were not living for this world alone but for the world that would know no end, and they strove toward helping each other reach that same finish line. That work of the Holy Family continues in the family of the Church. Jesus is our Savior who opened wide the gates to paradise. Mary is the gate of heaven. Joseph is the patron of a happy, a good death. They’re all striving to help us to live for God, for his Kingdom, for eternity, and to inspire each other to come to that eternal holy family of the saints in the House of the Father.

Today is an occasion in which we can all ask ourselves whether we’re genuinely inspiring others to live for God’s kingdom or for this world and our own or others’ kingdoms. Many times, like nursing moms who aren’t ready to wean their children or overprotective parents who don’t want their kids to follow their dreams and go to college away from home, they prefer to keep their loved ones — whether they’re one or 101 — with them in this world, in their own comfortable kingdom, rather than let them go to God. They make it hard for people truly to go to God, to live out the fulfillment of consecration. There’s another way.

One of the greatest examples of the eschatological nature of familial consecration I’ve ever encountered I’ve seen in the Japanese martyrs. Between 1597-1639, over 35,000 of the 300,000 Japanese Catholics were killed for our faith. Parents prepared children from the earliest ages with a knowledge and love of heaven far greater than fear of death and suffering. Kids learned that when they made the Sign of the Cross, they were expressing their unity with Christ on the Cross and preparing themselves to pick up their crosses and follow him first to death and then to Resurrection. They understood that the Eucharist was not just a liturgical rite, but a true participation in Christ’s passion, death and Resurrection. When they prayed the mysteries of the Rosary, they saw that before they could share in the glorious mysteries, they first needed to enter into the sorrowful ones. The preparation extended to practical instruction as well. Mothers trained their kids how to be faithful at the supreme hour. They taught them how to uncover their necks, fold their hands and look to heaven, as well as what to pray when their own hour came. They breast-fed them the stories of the heroic deaths of the apostles, the early Christian martyrs, and the Japanese martyrs before of them, and inspired them to strive for similar greatness.

And we see that in action.

One mother, Tecla Hashimoto, pregnant with her seventh child, was crucified together with her three year-old daughter, Luisa. A pile of wood at the bottom of their joint cross was set on fire to increase their agony, as her other children were suffering the same fate nearby. “Lord Jesus,” she prayed aloud, “receive these children.” When her eldest daughter cried out that she could no longer see her on account of the flames engulfing them, Tecla answered joyfully, “Don’t worry! In a little while you will see everything clearly.”

Such accounts of the martyrdom of children are the most moving of all. After watching his father be beheaded, five year-old Peter Hatori ran over to his father’s lifeless body, removed his kimono, knelt down, joined his hands in prayer and presented his uncovered neck to the executioners. The Samurai were so stunned by the boy’s actions that they misfired on their intended lethal blow, instead cutting through the boy’s shoulder and sending him to the ground. Without complaining about what must have been enormous pain, Peter just lifted himself up on his knees and continued praying. He extended his neck once again and was killed, while calling on the names of Jesus and Mary.

How did such holy audacity ever become so routine among even the youngest generations of Japanese Catholics? It was because, from the beginning, they lived for the kingdom and knew that they might need to suffer violence to enter into it, just as Jesus had suffered to inaugurate it. Consecrated families truly live this desire for heaven.

True Community Life

The sixth trait of consecrated families is authentic community life. A consecrated family, like the Holy Family, seeks to model itself on the Blessed Trinity, which is a loving communion of persons. A family is not meant to be a bunch of isolated individuals who have the same address, but people who really seek the others’ good even above their own. Many families, we know, have a genuine community life without a consecration, but consecrated families must really live it.

When a family is consecrated to God, the members also consecrated themselves in love to each other, because they recognize in each other the image of God calling them to a communion of love.

To understand the community life to which a Christian family is called, we can learn from the early Church, which was formed into a Holy Family by the Holy Spirit and by the prayers and example of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, the members of the primitive Church saw themselves as family members and prayed together, ate together, went on pilgrimages together, and even put all their possessions in common. That’s what consecrated families do. We’ve already talked about prayer, but the other three are likewise important to consider. We’re called to eat together. As the Italians say, mangiano soli soltanto i cani, “Only dogs eat alone!” In a consecrated family, the members of the family make extra effort to eat their meals together, sacrificing other things to grow together as a family over the table rather than sacrificing family meals regularly for other less important things. Consecrated families try to make pilgrimage together and vacation together, strengthening each other on the pilgrimage of life and making it more fun. Consecrated families genuinely pool their resources for the good of all, because they genuinely love each other. To make or renew a family’s consecration to the Holy Family is to commit oneself to this type of community life that is a distinctive trait of communities of consecrated men and women and ought to be a trait of truly Christian homes.

Contagious Joy

The last characteristic of consecrated families is the fruit of all of the others, the fruit of a community life in which God reigns through consecration to the new and eternal covenant. It’s joy! Just as we see in the lives of so many consecrated men and women and their communities, a family that really lives out its vocation to be a holy family is marked by the “good news of great joy” that Christ came to bring into the world and to bring into the families of the world. Jesus said that he had come so that his joy might be in us and our joy be brought to perfection (Jn 15:11) and families that genuinely open themselves up to God experience this. Joy is a fruit of love, of loving presence and accompaniment, and that’s what happens when a family opens itself up to the love of God, lets that love dwell richly in their home and starts to love others in that way. A family in which all the members live their consecration to God individually and communally experiences a joy that that world can’t give or rob, and they experience this joy even in the midst of physical suffering, even in the midst of poverty, even in the midst of the normal disagreements that happen in every home. Jesus wants every family to experience this joy, the joy that radiated not from a Penthouse on Park Avenue but from a poor cave in Bethlehem. Today is a day in which families are called to learn from the Holy Family the joy that flows from familial consecration to God.

Entering into Jesus’ Consecration 

As important as the Feast of the Holy Family is to make or renew a family consecration, such a spiritual dedication is too important to do only once a year. It’s ultimately something that families are called to do every Sunday when they come to Mass. There’s great meaning to the fact that for the most important event that happens in the world every day we use the word “consecration,” when we give to God the Father simple bread and wine and he changes those simple human staples into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of his dearly beloved Son. It’s in the consecration of the Mass that God invites us and desires us to renew our individual and familial consecrations.

It’s here that a family that prays together prays most powerfully. It’s here that a family learns how to give their lives for each other without counting the cost as they receive Jesus’ full outpouring of love that enables them to say to each other, “This is my body, my blood, my life, given for you.” It’s here that a family empties itself in spiritual poverty and becomes rich in God. It’s here that a family learns the great reward we get from holy obedience as we faithfully carry out Jesus’ command to “do this in memory of” him. It’s here that we help each other to seek first God’s kingdom as we make room within ourselves for the same King who was born and adored in Bethlehem. It’s through communion with Jesus that we enter into a far deeper communion with others that we would ever be able to bring about on our own. And it’s here that we receive Joy incarnate and are made capable of sharing that joy with each other in the family and letting that joy overflow toward others.

Today in this Temple dedicated to God through the intercession of St. Bernadette, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph are doing more than joining us in consecrating Jesus to God the Father. They are likewise presenting us individually, with our families, and as a parish family, before the Temple of God the Father in heaven through, with, and in Jesus. Let us beg God the Father to accept this joint consecration together with his Son so that we, our consecrated families and our consecrated parish might perpetuate in time Jesus’ saving work as the light of revelation to the nations and the glory of God’s people!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 sir 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

responsorial psalm ps 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R/ (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R/ Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

reading 2 col 3:12-21

Brothers and sisters:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love,
that is, the bond of perfection.
And let the peace of Christ control your hearts,
the peace into which you were also called in one body.
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another,
singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
with gratitude in your hearts to God.
And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, be subordinate to your husbands,
as is proper in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives,
and avoid any bitterness toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything,
for this is pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children,
so they may not become discouraged.

Alleluia Col 3:15a, 16a

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Let the peace of Christ control your hearts;
let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel lk 2:22-40

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,
and 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.