Saturday, June 6, 2009

Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Luke 2:22ff

An Ignatian Repetition.


Hundreds of pilgrims mill around the marble columns of the Temple.

An OLD MAN rounds a pillar and nearly tumbles over an OLD WOMAN resting on the ground.

OLD MAN (M:) (with an uncanny knack for English vernacular)
Good Grief! Why don't you go home for a change?

OLD WOMAN (W:) (looking up and wondering if the subtitles are working)
For the same reason you come everyday to clean the floor with those oversized robes. Who do you think you are, a priest?

M: They keep my feet warm.

W: Well you might get some thicker sandels, or try wearing socks.

M: Socks? What are...

W: (interrupting) In time, in time. Don't push it.

M: You just can't let a guy go in peace, can you?

W: Well, if you weren't so politically correct I'd get out from under your misogynistic feet.

M: Mis-ongen... what?

W: All you think about is being Jewish!

M: What's wrong with that?

W: Some of us aren't Jewish?

M: You're not, Jewish? But you've been here for as long as I've been coming to Temple. You never leave the place, what'd...

W: I didn't say I wasn't Jewish, but do you think all these pilgrims that you're cleaning up after are Jews? Look at that guy over there with the pug face. No nose at all. Where do suppose he's from? And the family... there, by on the steps to the portico. The guy's at least in his 4th decade and still no hair. Why are they here?

M: I... I.... guess. I don't know!

W: Of course you don't. That's because you're just too Jewish for your own good. They're here for the same reason you and I suffer from Temple addiction. Today could be the day. They don't want to miss it either. They come in here to pray, and experience the presence of God.

M: But how could they... they're.... goya -- they are all that is not of Israel.

W: Well, like I've been saying...and even though you're tripping over them, and you're picking up their trash day after day, you don't get it. He's coming for them, too.

M: I still don't believe it. Why would God care about the gentiles and their filthy habits. Look here's another hamburger wrapper just lying on the ground. (The Old Man stabs it with a pointed stick, and then slides it into a trash bag slung over his shoulder. )

W: That was mine.

M: Sun's finally up.

W: He's coming as a light to them, too. See how the sun warms their feet as well as your own?

The Old Man looks around the temple as the early morning sun stirs the pilgrims who have spent the night on the ground. It is warm. It is light. And it falls upon the just and the unjust, the Jews and the Gentiles alike.

M: I just don't believe it.

W: It's not up to you.

As his eyes drift across the crowd toward the entrance steps his eyes notice that several people are moving toward a couple and a young child that have just entered. The sun cuts through the columns like a stage's follow spot and lands on the mother and small child she carries. The man has a worn cloth bag of belongings over his shoulder and a couple of birds wrapped in a net. He seem surprised at how people are looking at them, their eyes following every step. But the young mother smiles to herself, eyes cast down, at the child's face still hidden in the wrap.

W: What is it?

The Old Man is silent. He just gazes at the family as they come up the steps, through the crowd, toward where and the his old lady friend have been bickering and debating future history.

M: They're coming over here.

The woman gets up, slowly, in an aged way, and looks toward the bustle.

She squints in the bright light that now encircles the family... yes, like a halo, as corny as that may sound.

W: That's her. They've been talking about her for weeks now. A young girl, a virgin even, who had a baby in the middle of the night. Her husband's much older. Yes, I'm sure. Those people near them stirring? Those are families from Bethlehem, see the blue dye of their rucksacks. They match the mother's. That's her, Simeon.

Simeon just stares. He can't help but notice that others, the Gentiles that have come to the Temple, not as worshipers, but messy tourists that make his job cleaning up the place more difficult, are being drawn to the young family, who are now almost upon them.

SIMEON: Anna, what should I do?

ANNA: I've always said you pray out loud better than the high priest. Go for it.

Simeon steps forward, into the path of the young mother. The woman's husband is a little more agile and intervenes with his walking stick to protect the mother and her child. But the Simeon's eyes are on the woman, and then the baby. And the mother, after glancing into Simeon's eyes recognizes something special. She looks up at her husband and smiles, who drops his stick.

Then, almost as if it was for thousands of years, she unwraps the child, and hands him to the Simeon's waiting embrace. Anna stands nearby, knowing what is about to happen; she knows this old coot. He may be prejudice against the Gentiles, but he loves God more than most. What a great priest he would have made. But, now... this moment, may make up for some of that.

Simeon takes the child, almost kneels in the process, but then thinks again, and instead holds the child slightly aloft, turns toward the sun, and a throng of people that have gathered. The pug faced man, and the hairless man and his family are standing right in front of him... and all eyes are on the child that Simeon holds so firmly but reverently aloft.

SIMEON: (every word counts as he unblinkingly prays):
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared...
He glances at the many faces from many nations.
...which you have prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light...
Then he catches Anna's eyes, as the diminutive old woman gazes up at the child.
...a light for revelation to the Gentiles...
Anna smiles.
...and glory for your people Israel.
There is a hush over the gathering as Simeon so carefully gives the baby back to his mother, an astonished look on her face and her husband's.

SIMEON (to the mother):
Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise 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.
And he backs away.

The old woman thinks to herself: Not bad. Yes, he wold have made a great priest, listening to confessions, atoning for sins. But then, someone has to pick up the garbage.

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