It is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church. Egeria, a Spanish nun on pilgrimage to Jerusalem around 381, describes the feast in her remarkable journal:
"On that day there is a procession into the Anastasis [the site of the Resurrection], and all assemble there for the liturgy; and everything is performed in the prescribed manner with the greatest solemnity, just as on Easter Sunday. All the priests give sermons, and the bishop, too; and all preach on the Gospel text describing how on the fortieth day Joseph and Mary took the Lord to the temple, and how Simeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw Him, and what words they spoke on seeing the Lord, and of the offering which his parents brought. Afterwards, when all the ceremonies have been performed in the prescribed manner, the Eucharist is then celebrated and the dismissal given".The feast is rich in theological meaning. The obvious theme of light has been central, coming from the Song of Simeon, Nunc Dimittis “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. Although we now tend to think that the Presentation looks backwards concluding the 40 day period after the Nativity, as Egeria hinted in her diary, it also looks forward to the Easter mystery, when our "illumination" or rebirth in baptism is celebrated.
An Orthodox hymn for the feast captures this double theme:
Hail Virgin Theotókos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in Your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.