The Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple – Encounter with God

Every rational person yearns for happiness and seeks it out. They search for it constantly and everywhere. And how they rejoice when they find even a tiny grain of happiness. Happiness comes from encounters. Meeting desired people, longed-for places, ideal situations. Thus, the quest for happiness is the main driver of processes for unity, communication, bonding. It seems the world has never been as connected as today, people have never been so interlinked as now. A mere click or a moment, and you can connect with someone on the opposite side of the planet. In an instant, you can find out what’s happening all over the world. Rightly, our contemporary society is called the information and communication age. People are connected on the internet. Contacts in phones and on social networks increase daily. Never before have people communicated with each other as they do today. Individual meetings have multiplied compared to the era before the information revolution.

But are people genuinely happy from all these meetings?

Paradoxically, in an era of utmost connectivity, we witness a rapid rise in various depressions, phobias, anxieties, psychoses. Loneliness has become the most widespread plague and stress – the most common diagnosis. Sorrow reigns in the majority of human hearts. We face the absurdity, in the great metropolises, where millions live and various entertainments unfold, that the highest number of lonely and unhappy individuals exists. Clearly, today’s form of meetings does not bring lasting happiness. More so, it is an illusion, or rather, a simulation of meeting. Superficial connections and empty verbal and visual communication do not constitute an authentic meeting. The true meeting is, above all, a spiritual process, an exchange of energy, an inner connection. You love and are loved. Essentially, the meeting understood as happiness is what our Church celebrates today: The Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, the encounter of God with man.

“The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple,” our Elder, Bishop Partenij of Antania, would say in one of his homilies, “is a feast of the meeting of man with God, or perhaps more accurately, of God with man. This meeting, this encounter represents the true happiness of man. Hence, the word happiness, in Slavic languages, comes from meeting, from the Divine Meeting. Consequently, our festive gathering today is true happiness for all of us, as we meet in the name of God’s love.

It could be said that there are three types of meetings: the meeting of man with God, the meeting of man with man, and the meeting of man with himself. In essence, all three meetings are inseparably linked to each other and start from the most important – the meeting of man with his Creator. For, when in humility and repentance, with love and gratitude, we converse with God in our heart, through prayer, through sighs, through the heartfelt cry of our contrite inner person, then through the uncreated energies of the Holy Spirit, in our being occurs that mysterious meeting, that grace-filled visitation of God. At that moment, our being is filled with heavenly joy, overwhelmed by a wondrous beauty from above, experiencing the primordial happiness that the first-created humans lived in Eden before the fall. Finding oneself in that atmosphere of God’s healing grace, one feels the fullness and meaning of existence; begins to live authentically, divinely intended, existing in the orbit of God’s all-encompassing love. Although with the spirit he resides beyond time-space, in the eternal realm of God, for him logically are justified all things in this life, the things of this world rightly have their meaning, and he sees all people as icons of God. Blessed by the Holy Spirit, he establishes a proper connection, meeting both with himself and with other people, in whom he sees the image of the Creator.”

The meeting with Christ happens on a personal level. The Lord desires to meet with every person individually, and His favorite place for meeting is the human heart. Prayer, fasting accompanied by good deeds, and Holy Communion are the means through which one meets their Creator in daily life. And that desired meeting of the two persons, man and God, becomes happiness for both. God rejoices with the joy of His creation, and man feels deeply loved, protected, peaceful, in the embrace of the heavenly Father.

Such was the meeting and happiness for us in last night’s vigil and today’s Divine Liturgy, under the guidance of our god-loving shepherd and elder, Bishop Partenij, in honor of The Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple.