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The Presentation in the Temple

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, 20 June 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. According to the "Gospel of Jesus' childhood" presented by Luke, the Holy Spirit was revealed not only at the annunciation and during Mary's visitation to Elizabeth, as we saw in previous catecheses. He was also revealed during the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple on the fortieth day after his birth (cf. Lk 2:22-38). That is the first of an entire series of events in the life of Christ in which the truth of the mystery of the Incarnation extends into that of the active presence of the Holy Spirit.

2. The evangelist writes that "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" (Lk 2:22). The presentation of the firstborn in the Temple and the offering which accompanied it (cf. Lk 2:24) was a symbolic ransoming of the tiny Israelite, who thus returned to the life of his family and his people. It was prescribed (or at least recommended) by the Mosaic law in force during the old covenant (cf. Ex 13:2, 12-13, 15; Lev 12:6-8; Num 18:15). Pious Israelites practiced that ancient rite. According to Luke, the rite performed by Jesus' parents in observance of the law was an occasion for a new intervention by the Holy Spirit, who gave the event messianic significance, introducing into it the mystery of Christ the Redeemer. The chosen instrument for this new revelation was a holy old man, of whom Luke writes: "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" (Lk 2:25). Therefore, this took place in the holy city and in the temple toward which the entire history of Israel gravitated and in which the hopes based on the ancient promises and prophecies came together.

3. That man who awaited the "consolation of Israel," that is, the Messiah, had been especially prepared by the Holy Spirit for the meeting with "the one who is to come." We read that "the Holy Spirit was upon him," that is, acted within him in a habitual fashion, and "had revealed to him that he would not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord" (Lk 2:26).

According to Luke's text, that period of waiting for the Messiah, packed with desire, hope and the inner certainty that it would be granted him to see him with his own eyes, was an indication of the Spirit's activity which is inspiration, enlightenment and movement. The day when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple Simeon went there also, "moved by the Spirit," as Luke says (Lk 2:27). The inspiration of the Holy Spirit not only foretold his meeting with the Messiah, and not only suggested to him that he make a visit to the temple, but it moved him and almost drove him. Once he had arrived at the Temple, that inspiration permitted him to recognize the one he was waiting for in the child Jesus, the son of Mary.

4. Luke writes that "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" (Lk 2:27-28).

At that point the evangelist places on Simeon's lips the canticle Nunc Dimittis which is known by all. The liturgy has us repeat it daily at compline when the sense of the passing of time is particularly felt. The very touching words of Simeon, who was already close to the moment of "going in peace," create an opening for the ever-new hope for salvation which finds its fulfillment in Christ: "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:30-32). It was an advance proclamation of universal evangelization, heralding the salvation which comes from Jerusalem, from Israel, but by the power of the Messiah-Savior who is awaited by his people and by all peoples.

5. The Holy Spirit working in Simeon was also present and carried out his work in those who, like that holy old man, stayed close to God and believed in his promises at all times. Luke offers us another example of this reality, of this mystery. That example is the prophetess Anna who, having remained a widow since her youth, "never left the Temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer" (Lk 2:37). Therefore she was a woman consecrated to God and, in the light of God's Spirit, especially capable of grasping God's plan and interpreting God's commands. In this sense she was a "prophetess" (cf. Ex 15:20; Jgs 4:4; 2 Kgs 22:14). Luke does not speak explicitly of the Holy Spirit's action within her. Yet still he associates her with Simeon, both as regards their praise of God and their speaking about Jesus: "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" (Lk 2:38). Like Simeon she too without a doubt was moved by the Holy Spirit toward her meeting with Jesus.

6. The prophetic words of Simeon (and of Anna) not only announced the Savior's coming into the world and his presence in Israel's midst, but also his redemptive sacrifice. This second part of the prophecy was directed precisely to Mary: "He is destined for the rise and fall 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" (Lk 2:34-35).

One cannot fail to see the Spirit as the inspirer of this prophecy of Christ's passion, through which he will bring about salvation. Simeon also spoke of the future sufferings of Christ in directing his thoughts to the heart of Mary, who is associated with her Son in bearing the contradictions of Israel and of the whole world. Simeon did not mention the sacrifice of the cross by name, but transferred the prophecy into the heart of Mary, who will be "pierced with a sword" as co-sharer in the sufferings of her Son.

7. The inspired words of Simeon take on even more importance if they are considered in the global context of the "Gospel of Jesus' childhood" described by Luke. They fall within that whole period of life which comes under the special action of the Holy Spirit. Thus the evangelist's observation is more understandable when he refers to the astonishment of Mary and Joseph at those events and words: "The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him" (Lk 2:33).

The one who mentions those events and words is the same Luke who, as author of the Acts of the Apostles, describes the Pentecost event: the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the disciples gathered together in the Cenacle with Mary after the Lord's ascension into heaven, as Jesus himself had promised. The reading of the "Gospel of Jesus' childhood" already shows that the evangelist was especially sensitive to the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation, from the first to the final moment of Christ's life."

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères at Soeurs,

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française qui prennent part à cette audience. J’adresse mes voeux fervents au groupe de Bordeaux venu à Rome pour y nourrir sa foi et son amour de l’Eglise. Je tiens à dire ma sympathie et toute mon affection au groupe des jeunes de Corse, membres de l’Association des Paralysés de France. A chacun d’entre vous, mes chers amis, j’accorde très volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience. My special greeting goes to the pilgrimage group from the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, accompanied by their Bishop. I also greet the pilgrims from the United States who are visiting the Franciscan shrines of Italy. To all of you I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich herzlich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Ich wünsche Euch frohe und geistig reiche Tage in der ”Ewigen Stadt“ und erteile Euch für eine gute Rückkehr sowie allen Euren Lieben in der Heimat von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! 

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora dirigir mi cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, al grupo de sacerdotes del Pontificio Colegio Mexicano, de Roma, a quienes aliento a una profunda preparación teológica y espiritual para mejor servir a las comunidades eclesiales mexicanas, que tuve el gozo de visitar en mi reciente viaje pastoral a aquel amado país.

Saludo igualmente a las Hermanas Mercedarias de la Caridad, que celebran en Roma su Asamblea General, y a las peregrinaciones de Puerto Rico, de Colombia y a la Hermandad de la Iglesia de San Antonio de Madrid.

A todos bendigo de corazón. 

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese 

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Aos peregrinos de Portugal e do Brasil, assim como aos seus familiares, convido a manter vivo o Amor à Virgem Maria, nossa maternal intercessora diante de Deus, ao mesmo tempo que lhes concedo com afecto a minha Bênção Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli polacchi 

Dziś w sposób szczególny pragnę podziękować Tobie, Pani Jasnogórska, za Kościół unicki na Ukrainie, który po latach odzyskuje właściwe sobie prawa. Przedtem jeszcze dzikuję za dni 10 i 11 wrześnie 1988 r. W dniach tych, Bogarodzico, w Twoim sanktuarium zgromadził się Lud Boży Kościoła unickiego ze swymi Pasterzami, aby uwielbić Przenajświętszą Trójcę za dar Chrztu w Kijowie przed tysiącem lat.

Chrzest i Kościół przyszedł do nas z Rzymu - do nich, na Ruś, przyszedł z Bizancjum. Było to jednak w czasie, gdy Rzym i Bizancjum - Zachód i Wschód - trwały w jednym niepodzielonym Kościele. A kiedy prawie sto lat później nieszczsny podział został zapoczątkowany, w Kijowie najdłużej przetrwała wiara w niepodzielną jedność Kościoła. W ciągu wieków podejmowano starania o przywrócenie jedności pomiędzy Zachodem i Wschodem. Stolica Kijowska uczestniczyła w tych staraniach.

W dniach 10 i 11 września, na Tysiąclecie Chrztu, przybyli do Ciebie, Pani Jasnogórska, dziedzice Unii Brzeskiej, którzy przez cztery stulecia trwali w odbudowanej jedności z Następcą Piotra, a swojej wierze i wierności dawali świadectwo aż do przelania krwi.

Dziś dzięki składamy za tę wiarę za wierność Kościoła i jego wyznawców na Ukrainie, a także na Zakarpaciu, w Rumunii. I wespół z Soborem żywimy nadzieję, że Kościół ten przygotowuje drogi jedności pomidzy Wschodem i Zachodem, tej jedności, o którą modlił się Chrystus w Wieczerniku: “ Ojcze, spraw, aby byli jedno, tak jak my jedno jesteśmy ”.

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski: z parafii św. Józefa w Rudzie Śląskiej; z parafii Jezusa Chrystusa Odkupiciela Człowieka w Bielsku; z parafii Najświtszego Serca Pana Jezusa w Rzeszowie; z parafii Świętego Krzyża w Gliwicach - oo. redemptoryści; pielgrzymk polonijną księży chrystusowców z Australii; pielgrzymkę z polonijnej parafii św. Jakuba w Chicago; grupę turystyczną Mysłowickiego Przedsiębiorstwa Budownictwa Inżynieryjnego i Przemysłowego oraz Klubu Żeglarskiego “ Pagaj ” z Lubiąża; załogę jachtu “ Oskar ” z Zabrza oraz grupę PTKK z Ursusa. 

Ai gruppi italiani 

Il mio cordiale pensiero va ora ai pellegrini della diocesi di Tursi-Lagonegro, i quali, guidati dal loro Vescovo, Monsignor Rocco Talucci, prendono parte a questa Udienza a conclusione dell’Anno Pastorale diocesano che li ha visti impegnati nell’approfondimento del tema generale: “Nella sete di Dio la speranza e il futuro dell’uomo”. Cari fratelli e sorelle, vi esprimo il mio compiacimento per il cammino spirituale che avete percorso e vi auguro che esso serva ad incrementare la comunione con Dio e la fraterna solidarietà spirituale tra voi.

Un saluto particolarmente affettuoso rivolgo ai sacerdoti del Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere, i quali festeggiano il 25º anniversario della loro Ordinazione sacerdotale. Vi ringrazio per il bene compiuto al servizio della Chiesa in questi 25 anni di attività missionaria. Il Signore mantenga intatta nelle vostre anime la luce che vi ha inondato nel giorno della vostra Ordinazione e faccia sì che essa possa esservi di stimolo nel vostro ulteriore impegno apostolico.

Ringrazio per la loro presenza i giovani militari della Brigata Meccanizzata “Legnano” di Bergamo, venuti a Roma in occasione di una esercitazione al campo. Vi sia utile l’esperienza che state conducendo per una piena maturazione umana e spirituale che vi prepari anche alle vostre future responsabilità nell’ambito della famiglia e della società. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Saluto infine, come di consueto, i Giovani, gli Ammalati e gli Sposi Novelli. Dopodomani è la solennità del Sacro Cuore di Gesù: una festa tanto cara al popolo cristiano. Invito voi giovani a scoprire le ricchezze che si nascondono nel Cuore di Gesù. Possa il vostro cuore aprirsi alla scuola dell’amore di Cristo ed imparare così ad amare in maniera sempre nobile e nobilitante. So che tra voi ci sono i ragazzi e le ragazze della Parrocchia dei SS. Pietro e Paolo di Turate, in diocesi di Milano, i quali hanno ricevuto da poco il Sacramento della Cresima. Ad essi dico: siate testimoni coraggiosi e generosi di Cristo negli ambienti in cui vivete.

Ed anche voi, cari ammalati, che soffrite nel corpo e nello spirito, volgete lo sguardo al Cuore di Gesù e troverete la pace, il conforto e la speranza. La sofferenza, infatti, è scuola d’amore.

Il Sacro Cuore di Gesù insegni pure a voi, sposi novelli, ad amarvi ed a sostenervi vicendevolmente lungo tutto il percorso della vita familiare che è iniziato con il Sacramento del matrimonio. A tutti imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

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