Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 10 : Anna and Simeon at the Temple

File:Brooklyn Museum - The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (La pr├ęsentation de J├ęsus au Temple) - James Tissot - overall.jpg

Luke 2.-21-39
These two old people are often overlooked or forgotten in the telling of the Christmas story. Old people often are. But not by the Lord.

Simeon was a good man. He had a testimony and had tried to be a good member all his life. He had learned how to recognize the Spirit and had probably often been prompted to go help some widow with her sickly donkey or a broken door hinge. It was because of a life-long habit of listening to and obeying the Spirit that Simeon happened to be at the temple on the day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to be redeemed.

And his old eyes were opened and he knew who Jesus was. He offered Mary a priesthood blessing: he could see how hard yet rich her life would be. Like Eli of old, he blessed parents who had given their son to God, blessed them with more sons and daughters. And his old mouth was filled with marvelous words. And the service of his whole life was paid in full in that moment in the temple.

He was not alone. Anna (named for Hannah, the mother of Samuel) was also at the temple. Lots of old widows are, serving day and night with fasting and prayer and washing and ushering and folding clothes and welcoming people to the house of the Lord. And in that instant she too rejoiced and, like so many of our sisters, told EVERYONE she met about the marvelous babe.

Please do not forget the Simeons and Annas in your lives and congregations: Invite them into your home as God did into His and let them tell you how they MET Christ in their lives.

According to a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Simeon had been one of the seventy-two translators of the Septuagint. As he hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (LXX: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive..."), an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin. This would make him well over two hundred years old at the time of the meeting described in Luke, and therefore miraculously long-lived.

The Eastern Orthodox Church considers Anna and Simeon as the last prophets of Old Testament. It observes their feast on February 3 as the synaxis (afterfeast) following the Presentation of Christ (or the Feast of Candlemas ) which occurs 40 days after His birth.  The dual feast is called "The Meeting of Our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ".

This moment of recognition has been set to music many times.  The 'Nunc Dimitus' ('Now let me depart') is sung at evensong, sometimes in English.  Bach's Cantata BWV 125 Mit Fried un Freud ich fahr dahin (With peace and joy I depart) 
is an extended piece on Simeon's words.

And, finally, there is a very old Christian tradition, that the Simeon at the temple was actuallywas the son of Hillel the Elder, and when Hillel died, Shimon took over his place as the chief Rabbi. It is assumed that Shimon did not live long after this, and was quickly succeeded by his son, Gamaliel I (who was Saul/Paul's teacher).

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