Temples of the Holy Spirit
We celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord this week. Only Luke gives this account, probably because his audience (the Gentiles) were not familiar with the Jewish rite of presentation and purification. Luke’s writing shows that the promise made by God to Israel, as fulfilled in Jesus, also extends to the Gentiles. The Feast is celebrated 40 days after Christmas, marking the end of that liturgical season.
Under Jewish tradition, as stated in Leviticus 12, a woman who gave birth was considered “unclean” for forty days and the law required her to bring an appropriate offering (a lamb, a pigeon/dove) which would then be sacrificed to bring about the purification. The idea of women needing purification after childbirth may seem rather primitive and unscientific – unfortunately there exists even today in the developing world many taboos surrounding reproduction and child birth. These and also some Western attitudes can deny us a full appreciation of the sacred miracle of a natural loving process and resulting new life.
When we reflect upon the wonder of our miraculous bodies and the intricacy of all its working components, growing and developing from before birth to fullness, we can only conclude that there is a super-intelligent design behind it all. Each of our limbs, muscles and organs operate through a mix of electrical and chemical reactions, all interacting precisely together to control our thoughts, movements and well-being processes, fuelled by the air we breathe, sunlight and what we eat. Just ponder that marvel for a moment! It does not deny our evolutionary process when we ponder that a loving creator has brought it about with a power beyond our understanding.
This becomes even more fantastic to comprehend when we marvel at creation extending beyond our bodies! Dig any square metre of soil and it’s teaming with life! Even an ant has an intrinsic purpose in life and a tiny body packed with miniaturised organs all working together seamlessly, truly beyond our comprehension. It has a brain, tiny muscles and joints, a tiny heart and stomach, but it can lift ten times its own weight with ease! Marvelling at all creation around us aids the working of the Holy Spirit within us!
When Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22), also present was Simeon who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see Christ the Messiah before he died. Upon seeing Jesus, the holy man immediately recognised Him as the promised Saviour and held Him in his arms. Now with just a glimpse of God’s salvation embodied in Christ, Simeon could face his death with peace (Luke 2:29). We too can be comforted that when our miraculous bodies tire, with the light of Christ there can be joy in the face of death, strength in the midst of trials, and hope in the depths of despair.
After the Presentation, Jesus was to enter the temple again as a boy and later as an adult. He would even refer to His own body as a temple which He would raise up in three days. As well as being a marvel of creation, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and as such we must strive not to abuse them. In our seemingly ordinary lives, where else can we recognise the extraordinary signs of God’s love and majesty?
We pray that the Holy Spirit guides us, just as He guided Simeon, to recognise the presence of God all around us in creation, in our bodies, in our lives. May we discern the signs of God’s love for us and, when in the depths of despair, recognise that God is giving us signs – may we reach out and understand them.
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