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The Infant (a sonnet)

The Feast of Presentation (also known as 'Candlemas') is celebrated on the 2nd February by some churches, on the Sunday between the 28th January and the 3rd February by some others, and not at all by churches which (like mine) uphold a steady tradition of eschewing tradition. It marks the occasion when, 40 days after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph take him to Jerusalem to present him in the Temple in accordance with the Torah. It is here that Simeon, a man 'waiting for the consolation of Israel', meets the infant Jesus and recognises in him the outworking of God's promises.

Here is a sonnet I made about that encounter. Because (as Christmas celebrations sometimes seem especially designed to obscure) the Incarnation isn't "nice", it's awesome ...



THE INFANT 
I saw the preparation of my death
And life, lie crying, cradled in the arms
Of maiden motherhood. I heard alarms
And consolations in each wailing breath,
And recognised that many, wise and fools,
Would fall … and many rise; an issued sign
To bring to light the heart of the Divine,
And to lay bare the "reasoning animals".
No question but this advent should forebode
Contention: I could taste the moment; feel
The coming counteract, like sharpened steel –
For many feared such gifts as here bestowed.
But I, and others who had long held fast
The word, rejoiced to see it flesh at last.
Carolyn Whitnall, December 2013.



LUKE 2:25-38
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

[Thumbnail image is public domain: "Simeon in the Temple" by Rembrandt].

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