The Aquinas Institute is pleased to announce the release of its Latin-English edition of Thomas’s Commentary on Isaiah, with a new translation by Louis St. Hilaire, available for pre-order here.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Presentation, originally observed in the East as the feast of “the Encounter.” When Mary and Joseph came to the temple to offer the prescribed sacrifice, they met Simeon, a righteous and devout man, looking for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25), patiently and eagerly anticipating the coming of the Lord. And I will wait for the Lord, who has hid his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him (Isa 8:17). Simeon’s longing and faithfulness were richly rewarded–not only with the vision of but with the very encounter with his Savior.
We find ourselves in a position similar to Simeon, as Thomas notes: “What was then far off has come near . . . what was hidden has been made public . . . what was delayed has begun even now to be possessed by the saints in glory.” And yet, even though Christ has come in the flesh, we also find ourselves, like Simeon, still in waiting and preparation, both for the encounter that we can make with Him daily but also for the final encounter with Him at the end of our lives. We can reflect that there is a bit of a reversal here too, inasmuch as Jesus, whose delight is with the sons of men (Prov 8:31), Himself eagerly anticipates His coming into our hearts through faith and the sacraments.
For the prophet Isaiah, the coming of the Savior in the flesh was still far off, yet, as Thomas explains in the preface to his Isaiah commentary, “The subject matter of this book is principally the appearance of the Son of God.” Thomas’s claim here, that Isaiah is writing chiefly in anticipation and preparation for the Messiah’s arrival, provides us with some insight into the book’s importance–as fruitful and relevant for prayer and meditation in Isaiah’s day as in our own. Isaiah still prophesies for our benefit and for the preparation of our hearts for our encounter with the Son: “That he who reads it without the impediment of doubt may run through, believing in Christ, and believing may love, and in love may persevere.”
St. Jerome also tells us that all Isaiah’s concern was “for the calling of the Gentiles and the coming of Christ.” On this feast, when Christ is presented into the temple and celebrated as both a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel (cf. Luke 2:32), may we joyfully welcome Him into our hearts, and may Isaiah’s inspired words help us better to prepare for that encounter.
And I will set a sign among them, and I will send of them that shall be saved, to the Gentiles into the sea, into Africa, and Lydia them that draw the bow: into Italy, and Greece, to the islands afar off, to them that have not heard of me, and have not seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory to the Gentiles. (Isa 66:19)