Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 30, 2006
Faith's candles melt shadows
Every year we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and every year it becomes more relevant. In the old days, we celebrated the Presentation with the blessing of candles - a worthy symbol in itself. Today Simeon's prophecy to Mary that her son would grow to become " a sign of contradiction" (Luke 2:34) rings in our ears.
Our Catholic faith is more and more a silent sign of contradiction to the ways of the world. This year, the great feast falls shortly after a Supreme Court decision legitimizing swingers clubs. It comes 10 days after a federal election in which the leader of the winning party practically had to sign in blood that he would not raise the issue of abortion if elected to office.
It was an election in which the outgoing prime minister gleefully defended "women's right to choose," without ever bringing himself to pronounce the word "abortion." An election in which that same outgoing prime minister committed himself to breaking a promise to use the notwithstanding clause, if need be, to protect the right of religious clergy to not perform same-sex "marriages."
On even these basic things - basic human rights to life and family - Catholics can only feel like a sign of contradiction.
Our faith is misrepresented and ridiculed when it is not ignored. Too many of our own people view faith as a heavy cross to be dragged around, one full of dogmas and moral prescriptions from which any enlightened person would want to be liberated.
You can't say we weren't warned. Simeon spoke of Jesus as a sign of contradiction, but it applies to his body too. Paul called the faith a stumbling block.
But here was Paul who weathered more storms and persecutions than any believer and did it with joy. If anyone had reason to complain of the faith being a heavy cross, it was Paul. Yet it was Paul who could write from prison, "Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all" (Philippians 2:17).
There are revolutions and there are silent revolutions, the latter seemingly asleep in the frozen ground until the light and warmth of spring stirs it to burst forth and flower.
Today we are back to being the mustard seed. The days of the political and social power of the Church are behind us.
That is how it should be. The Church was never meant to conquer, but to be a fragile flower whose beauty stirs the hearts of the humble.
The faithful must bear witness to that beauty, even in the cold of winter - especially in the cold of winter.
We bear witness to Christ's redeeming power, not only through formal evangelization, but also through a public proclamation and defence of all that is good and wholesome. We have no hidden agenda, only the sign of contradiction.
With the feast of the Presentation, there is the contradiction, but also the light. In a sermon on this great feast, St. Sophronius declared, "Our lighted candles are a sign of the divine splendour of the one who comes to expel the dark shadows of evil and to make the whole universe radiant with the brilliance of Christ's eternal light."
The world is filled with shadows. Our lighted candles push back the darkness.
"Let us be shining ourselves as we go together to meet and to receive with the aged Simeon the light whose brilliance is eternal," said St. Sophronius.
Only God knows how great heaven is. Only he knows the extent to which the sign of contradiction is not negativity but brilliant light. But if we have faith, we will stand and contradict the darkness. And the mustard seed will begin to grow.
- Glen Argan
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