On this Day of Grace, forty days after the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Meeting of Lord, namely, of his presentation in the Temple (cf. St Luke 2:22-40). The rich service of this Feast affords us yet another opportunity to contemplate (albeit very briefly) how Liturgy reads the Bible—that is, how the Church’s liturgical texts interpret the Scriptures after the model of Apostolic and patristic exegesis.
In the shadow and letter of the Law, let us the faithful discern a figure: ‘Every male child that opens the womb shall be holy to God.’ Therefore the firstborn Word, Son of a Father who has no beginning, the firstborn child of a Mother who had not known man, we magnify. (Irmos of the IX Ode of the Canon at Matins)
In his Gospel narrative, St Luke writes (2:22-23) that Christ was brought to the Temple to be presented to the Lord according to what was written in the Law of Moses. Commenting on this, Liturgy calls the worshipping faithful to not simply regard St Luke’s indirect quotation of the Torah as a mere citation—a footnote, as it were—but to further discern in it a “figure,” a type (τύπον κατίδωμεν, typon katidōmen). It wasn’t only that Christ was presented in the Temple to fulfill the command of the Law, but rather that his presentation itself was The Fulfillment of the Law: he alone was the Holy One of God to which pointed every firstborn male that was presented to the Lord and called holy.
Here we have another example, then, of liturgical exegesis moving beyond a simple Messianic reading of an Old Testament text and firmly into an redemptive-historical understanding of it. And as I’ve written before, “this progression turns out to be inescapable, for as the infallible Moisés Silva has noted, ‘If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation—and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith’.”