Today’s feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2), alternatively known as Candlemas or the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, has come for me to be about new beginnings. It also seems to be an occasion for writing blog posts as in 2014 I remarked on the occurrence of the feast on a Sunday and in 2006 I wrote about celebrating the feast as a first-time liturgist.
Today at the chancery I had the great blessing of being part of a meeting of parish and archdiocesan leaders using Alpha to form missionary disciples in Catholic parishes. We discussed our experiences and planned future archdiocesan support of Alpha, collaboration between parishes, and followup efforts to foster the new evangelization. Attendees at our meeting included Fr. Jim Lee, pastor of St. Michael in Olympia where Alpha is being used very effectively to bring people to encounter Christ, and Deacon Steve Mitchell, National Director of Alpha in a Catholic Context. Therefore this liturgist whipped together a Mass for the occasion complete with our chancery a cappella choir to lead us in singing the dialogues and proper antiphons to accompany the lighting and blessing of the candles and subsequent procession through the chancery hallway. Deacon Steven preached eloquently of this feast of the Presentation of the Lord as the celebration of and invitation to evangelization (see Joy of the Gospel 24) referring to the lighting of the candles as an incarnation of the act of handing on the faith. Through the infusion of the Holy Spirit in the chapel and aided by the vigorous and conscious participation of all therein and Fr. Jim’s careful pacing, we were made palpably aware of the missionary dimension of this feast of the Presentation of the Lord where “we, too, go forth, rejoicing to encounter [Christ’s] Salvation” (Preface), taking a front seat in facilitating others’ awakening to Christ in our ministry on Alpha.
The rest of the day was a beautiful reminder of the work of evangelization going on in parishes and an opportunity to share with others how my home parish of St. John Vianney accepted the invitation to pilot Alpha in order to not only evangelize our own but also to form us as intentional, missional disciples who understand our parish as that territory of Vashon-Maury Island entrusted to the stewardship of our pastor who has care for all of the more than 10,000 souls that call this home and all those who visit here and not exclusively those in the pews and on the registers. As members of the assembly, that is to say those of us who have encountered Christ in and through the sacred liturgy, we are made coworkers with our pastors in reaping this harvest, sharing with others the good news, and inviting our friends and neighbors to meet Christ. This feast of the Presentation of the Lord reminds us and equips us to “Go out and meet Christ.” Alpha we found offers a simple method to awaken the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on us in full in baptism so that we can go forth and announce the good news. So, once again, ten years since I first fell in love with the feast of the Presentation of the Lord as a liturgist, I am falling in love with this liturgical Meeting of the Lord all over again—as an evangelist.
“A light of revelation to the Gentiles…prepared in the sight of all peoples” is entrusted to each of us who, like Simeon, have had the joy and spiritual consolation of meeting our Lord. How will you, enlightened by the same Spirit, confess him with exultation, and hand on that flame of faith?