The Presentation of our Lord in the Temple

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On the day of the Presentation of our Lord in the Temple, Sunday, February 2, The Good Shepherd conducted a churching service for Marianne and Sophia. Churching is the blessing of mother and child forty days after giving birth. The mother and child are blessed at the door of the Church, the priest then carries the infant into the altar while asking God to bless them.

What follows is a text of the sermon preached by The Good Shepherd’s Æthelwold Jenkins immediately following the churching.

— Fr. Geoff


We Stand in a New Grace

Æthelwold Jenkins addressing The Good Shepherd Orthodox Church

Æthelwold Jenkins addressing The Good
Shepherd Orthodox Church

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What a beautiful ceremony we just witnessed. 

It is fitting that Sophia is churched on this day; the day of The Presentation of our Lord and Savior in the Temple. For it is on this day that we celebrate our Lord and Savior being received into the Temple forty days after his birth (Luke 2:22-40), following the custom of Hebrew Law—the Torah (Lev. 12:3, 4).

As we witness this, we sense the continuous thread of the worshipping Tradition of the People of God. The very shape of this ceremony—for example, the fact that the prayers begin at the Temple door—follows the Tradition and Teaching of Moses (Lev. 12:6).

So much of our private devotions and public worship is shaped by the Tradition of the Ancestors of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: 

  • the great treasure of the Psalter has become the prayer book of the Church
  • morning and evening prayers follow the morning and evening sacrifices
  • the timing of the liturgical day follows rabbinic Tradition
  • fasting practices
  • the offering of incense
  • even the very the architecture of this temple —
    • having a holy and most holy place
    • being lit with the seven candles behind me (the Menorah)
    • the focal point of worship being the altar

We stand in a grand, glorious and continuous thread that unites the generations of the People of God—before and after Jesus Christ.

Yet as we notice this continuity, we can also see changes. Today’s Epistle reading declares a change in the priesthood—and consequently in the Law (Heb. 7:7-17). As the Church reflected on these changes, it began to realise that this change transforms Worship, Law, Being, Spirituality, even Kinship Loyalties and National Identity.

We stand in a New Grace (Matins, Feb 2).

We stand in a New Grace that transforms our innermost being, transforms our worship of God, transforms our fellowship in the Church, and transforms our relationship with the world. To help us understand how much has changed, let us examine the backstory to The Presentation of Infants in the Temple.

The Presentation of Infants

Background and Old Covenant Meanings

When the children of Israel exited the land of Egypt, there was great enmity between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The Egyptians had enslaved the Israelites for hundreds of years and had suppressed their worship of the Lord. The plagues the Lord had brought against Egypt had stricken the land. The final calamity—the death of all the first-born sons of the Egyptians—caused the Egyptians to beg the Israelites to be gone.

Moses promised the Israelites that, having left Egypt, they would never be forced to return (Ex. 14:13). In fact, he declared it illegal for Israelites to settle in Egypt (Deut. 17:16).

When the Temple was established, Moses taught that all first-born males were holy to God because God had claimed the Egyptian first-born son as His (Ex. 13:15).

So, when Israelite parents brought their children to be blessed in the Temple, the meanings they attributed to it included:

  • Making an offering to redeem the life of any first-born son
  • Purifying the mother from the impurity of childbirth
  • Remembrance of their redemption from Egypt, and
  • A sign of separation from the Gentile nations.

New Covenant Meanings

But as you just heard, the prayers in the Churching ceremony have new Theological and Christological content.

  • The themes of purification of mother and child are brought forward from the Old Covenant
  • The holiness of first-borns to God (Ex. 13:1–2, 11–12, 14–16) is now understood as pointing forward to (being predictive of) Christ’s holiness
  • And the Church emphasises that Christ’s Presentation in the Temple makes it clear that He shares in our humanity—He is “One of Us” (homoousios with humanity).

So, what has now changed?

“Much in every way.”

I’d like you to imagine you are seated in the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in the pitch black of night without any lights. In the middle of the playing field are tiny pin-pricks of candlelight, representing the light of Torah shining in the world. Then the massive banks of MCG lights are switched on, bathing the arena in light that transforms night into day. This is the difference that swept the world when Christ took human flesh from the Virgin Mary and inaugurated the New Covenant (cf. 2 Cor. 3:10).

The world was transformed when the Word of God took human flesh. We might also liken it to how the Laws of Physics are transformed in the presence of a black hole.

For those who watched the movie Interstellar (2014)you will have seen a drama showing how a Black Hole transforms the physical properties of the universe. Physics behave predictably throughout the universe, except in the presence of a black hole, where the properties are transformed. In the film, matter and time were shown as being transformed within the black hole, and having new connections with the rest of the universe.

So too, when History, Law, Worship, Spirituality, Personhood, Community, Nations and Power come into contact with the Incarnate Word of God, ALL is transformed in His Presence.




Only Israelite infants were presented at the Temple.

People of all nations—Jewish and Gentile Christians alike—may present their children to the Lord.

Law-abiding Israelites were prevented from living in Egypt.

Jesus purified Egypt with His presence (Matt. 2:13–15) making Egypt a fitting place to worship the Lord: setting the scene for thousands of years of Christian faithful in that land.

The law of the Lord required separation of Israel from its neighbours.

The Lord sends His Apostles to all nations, tribes, peoples and languages, calling them all into the fellowship of the Church.

There was enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles.

There is a fellowship in the Lord that transcends kinship bonds, ethnic allegiances and national identity.

Only priests could enter the holy place.

Every Christian may stand in the holy place.

Priests ate the bread and the wine offering on behalf of the sons of Israel.

Every communicant may eat the bread and the wine, which is the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The meaning of Hebrew worship was rooted in the Creation and Exodus.

The meaning of Hebrew worship is understood as Type and Shadow of Jesus Christ, who inaugurated the New Creation through His Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection.

The peak experience of Hebrew spirituality was Obedience and Purity resulting in Holiness.

The peak experience of Christian spirituality is the grace of sanctification resulting in union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Lossky, Dogmatic Theology, p. 101, 102).

We could continue this list for a very long time.

(If you would like to explore more of these themes of continuity and change within Orthodox Christianity, feel free to sign up for the new Foundations of Orthodox Christianity course.)


We stand in this New Grace and discover that all of life is transformed in His Presence.

In just a few minutes, we will be singing “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God of Sabaoth” (Isa. 6:3). When the prophet Isaiah heard those heavenly words being sung about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, an angel took a fiery, wooden coal from the altar of the Lord and touched it to his lips, purifying him. 

St. John of Damascus (Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk IV, Chp XIII) tells us that this fiery, wooden coal is a figure of Jesus—for the coal is wood, united with fire, just as Jesus is humanity, united with divinity. 

When the Righteous Elder Symeon took the infant Lord into his arms—he held that fiery coal and blessed God for such a great salvation for all nations—and worshipped.

How much more blessed are we? We receive the fiery coal in our mouths and His Body and Blood are absorbed into our lives—that we may receive healing, purification, enlightenment, protection and salvation. Well may we praise and glorify the Lord, that we may worship truly.

For to You belong all glory, honour, worship and praise to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and to the ages of ages. Amen!


Fr. Geoff’s Concluding Comment

This sermon is based on the Gospel (Luke 2:22-40) and Epistle (Hebrews 7:7-17) readings for the day. Æthelwold has understood the import of these passages in light of

  • Old Testament readings from the day’s Vespers service
  • hymnody from the day’s Vespers and Matins services, and
  • Patristic commentary.

This is an excellent example of how the Orthodox Tradition provides the interpretive key to understanding Scripture.

— Fr. Geoff


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