"Lift up, O gates, your lintels!"
Never has the city of Jerusalem been so open. The gates are flung wide open; the lintels are lifted high; the portals couldn't be more accessible. Why all the excitement? The King of Glory approaches; his brightness is at the gate. Suddenly he comes to the temple; the one for whom we have been waiting. He comes as a messenger of the LORD to prepare the way before him. He is coming, the messenger of the covenant, who we desire, for whom we long, for whom we wait. Yes, his arrival is eminent. However, who will endure his coming? Who will stand tall when he arrives? This King of Glory is too bright for us to ignore. His glory shines into the depths of our dark and dreary lives. This brightness burns. This glory purifies. His coming changes everything. No longer do we have any excuses. Finally and definitively our sacrifice is made pleasing. The sacrifice of our broken hearts and the desires of our dried up tears is purified by the light of his glory. Indeed, it is transformed and united to his broken body and poured out blood offered on the cross outside the gates of the city so that all who pass by might catch a glimpse of the glory. A glory that refines like fire and purifies like love. Such is the King of Glory in all the brightness of his cross.
The Lord Jesus is the King of Glory, yet he himself was tested through what he suffered. This King on Calvary did not cling to his glory. He willingly sacrificed this glory; he emptied himself of glory, so that the children of blood and flesh might not be subject to slavery all their life. Christ, the Eternal Son of the Father, in becoming man became capable of suffering and death. This Divine Person took on our human nature so that he might be able to help those of us who are being tested even now. As the Letter to the Hebrews explains, the Lord Jesus came to help the descendants of Abraham not the angels. He became blood and flesh like his brothers and sisters; he became like us in every way but sin so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest. This priesthood is eternal like Melchizedek of old. In Christ, the New Melchizedek, we have a share in the one pure sacrifice that expiates the sins of all the people, in every generation, among all the nations. Indeed, we offer with Christ a pure sacrifice of praise, and we offer to Christ a pure sacrifice of praise because his glory has touched and transformed us into a living sacrifice of praise by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit and for the glory of the Father, now and always and ever and forever!
When the days of our Christmas/Epiphany celebration are completed, we gather with blessed candles burning bright. We lift up our voices in praise and welcome the King of Glory. In this feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple the liturgy reminds us again that the mystery of the incarnation does not fade like some Christmas decoration. This great mystery lights our way through Lent into Easter/Pentecost glory. At the gates of the New Jerusalem we meet the King of Glory who will become a sign that has been contradicted and is still contradicted. Not every heart is full of the bright glory of the Incarnate One. Not every heart is open to the purifying love of the King of Glory. As it was true for the Theotokos, so it is true for us. Simeon spoke a word of prophecy to the God-Bearer, and we who now bear the mystery of the Christ will also benefit from his words. "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." Indeed, it is the shattered, pierced and broken hearts that alone can be purified by the light of the King of Glory. This share in her suffering, which is a share in her son’s suffering, is not a waste of time and energy. With the Great High Priest, who enters his temple today, we offer to the Father of Glory a living sacrifice of praise. Such is the true joy of our life and the only dignity of our love, pure and undefiled.