“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)
For most of my life, I did not get the hype about today’s celebration, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord. What’s the big deal? Isn’t this basically a legal formality that Mary and Joseph momentous and dramatic celebrations like Christmas, Easter, the Annunciation, and the Ascension, I didn’t understand why a visit to the Temple, something Jesus would do many times in His life, deserved such a high-ranking and solemn feast. It wasn’t until I entered religious life that I gained from other friars a deeper appreciation of the glory of this day.
Actually, even though it was belated, there is something appropriate about the fact that my devotion to this feast only grew in the context of my own religious consecration. On this day, in addition to the Presentation, the Church observes the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, inviting all her members to intercede for those Christians who have taken on the pursuit of evangelical perfection through a life offered entirely to the honor and service of God, a life ruled and illuminated by Our Lord’s counsel to live in voluntary poverty, virginal chastity, and radical obedience just as He did.
In the Dominican Order, when we make our religious profession, we verbally articulate only one vow: Obedience to God, Blessed Mary, Blessed Dominic, and our Dominican superiors. For us, obedience is the crown of the counsels, containing implicitly all the others, and being itself the seed of perfection and happiness.
Why is this? The purpose of religious consecration, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is to enable the consecrated man or woman to attain the “perfection of charity,” and this “consists chiefly in the imitation of Christ,” In the life of Christ, obedience is commended to us as an example above all, St. Thomas argues, invoking Philippians 2:8: “He became obedient unto death.” (ST II-II, Q186, a.5, sed contra).
As I have come to understand and to love it, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord is a feast of Our Lord’s obedience. For that reason, it is eminently appropriate that we remember and pray for consecrated men and women today. Today Jesus, though He knew no sin, submitted to the Law which He Himself gave to Moses, receiving a blessing from a man He Himself had made. Today we behold the mystery of the infant God, whose being is an overflowing fountain of perfect charity such that He, the Highest, embraced lowliness for our sake.
In this humble obedience, Our Lord establishes the path to holiness, which is nothing but union with Him. It is to this obedience that all Christians are called, and most of all those who have handed themselves over to Him without reserve as living sacrifices of love by religious consecration. May He who has called us complete the good work He has begun.
Br. Anselm Dominic LeFave, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE