Sion, adorn your bridal chamber and welcome Christ the King; take Mary in your arms, who is the gate of heaven, for she herself is carrying the King of glory and a new light. A Virgin she remains, though bringing in her hands the Son before the morning star begotten, whom Simeon, taking in his arms announced to the people as the Lord of life and death and Savior of the world.
-Processional Antiphon, the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemass)
Forty Days after Christmas, today the Church celebrates the beautiful Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Marked by the simple poverty of Mary and Joseph, the joy of Anna the aged prophetess, and the recognition by Simeon that Jesus is the light to all the nations, the Christian faithful are called today to reflect upon our own sharing in the light of Christ by the power of our baptism.
Today in 2016 we also close out, officially, the Year of Consecrated Life. This particular themed, holy year will end largely as it begun and largely as it was observed around the world: without any real notice or fanfare. Before it was even halfway over, we were already moving on to the big push for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, a holy year that has already shown itself to be much more popular.
On some level this is fitting, even if sad. The men and women who live in the Consecrated state of life are indeed valuable and shining lights in the Church and in the world. As the processional antiphon for today calls to mind, they are spouses of the King in a beautiful and singular way. Their witness to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience is needed today more than ever.
These days they do tend to fly largely below the radar screen of the Church and society in a quiet sort of way, which is fitting on one level to a humble state of life. Part of the reason why the Year of Consecrated Life never really took off with any real excitement on almost any level of the Church is because these people shun attention by their very vocation. Indeed, they are quiet lights and today we give praise for them whether they seek it or not.
That said, perhaps this holy year did not gain much notice for another more unfortunate reason: there is no money to be made off of it by music publishers, banner makers, and book sellers. This as opposed to the Year of Mercy we are currently spending our way through.
If that’s true, that is a real shame. The general lack of enthusiasm for, or interest in, the Consecrated state of life is reflective of a culture that needs to once again discover a heavenly vision and way of seeing the world as opposed to the secular viewpoint that has overtaken everything, even many sectors of the Church.
Over the centuries, it has often been those in Consecrated Life that have brought the Church, and the world, back to their proper bearings, beginning quietly at first and then building into religious revivals. There is just something unfailingly appealing about the truth of their lives that are centered on the one thing, the one person, that matters the most: Jesus Christ. I am confident that even if this closing year, their year, was a non-event in some respects, their shining moment will one day come again.