Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America
On February 14 each year, the Armenian Church celebrates Dyarnuntarach, literally “the bringing forward of the Lord.” The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord to the Temple is always 40 days after Armenian Christmas. Other names for the feast include Derendas (possibly a contraction of Dyarnuntarach) and Candlemas.
The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord is told in the Gospel of Luke 2:21-40. It is the combination of two Jewish rituals followed by families during Jesus’ time. First, it represented the idea that 40 days after a woman gave birth, she would go to the temple and offer a pigeon and lamb as offerings of atonement and thus, she would be “purified”. The feast also recognizes the long-standing tradition of Jews to symbolically dedicate their first-born son to God by giving a small gift to the temple.
When Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple, Mary was seen by Simeon, an elderly and devoutly religious Jew who had prayed to God to keep him alive so he would see the Saviour promised to mankind. When he saw Mary and her baby, Simeon suddenly sensed God’s presence, and said: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
The feast commemorates the confirmation of Jesus’ revelation as God. As we think about the revelation at the temple, we reflect on three ideas:
1. The Son of God is a real person, fully human. In his presentation at the temple, he took part in the totality of everyday human life and thereby repeatedly graced it with meaning and purpose. Although we are granted a precious few details of Jesus’ life, this is one of them.
2. God is real to Mary and Joseph. In every moment of their lives, His presence and divine vision have charted their course. They listened for His voice and, as all such people do, they kept hearing it. When it was time to leave their private decisions and lives and join God’s community, they did so, not out of a devotion and commitment that was culturally determined, but out of a determination into which they had been newly called.
3. Being real, God’s purpose became the guiding principal of this family. It is not primarily the Son of God that Mary and Joseph take to the temple — for He needs no presentation — but the baby Jesus, a child who is to be raised in the faith that will both anchor him and yet allow him to reach high above and deep within to find the image and likeness of God that alone makes us truly human.