Lesson of Simeon

The Feast of the Presentation of Lord takes us through the Holy Family fulfilling the religious and cultural obligations of their day.  Dutiful and faithful Mary and Joseph, taking their child to the temple to fulfill what the law proscribes, never mind that this child is God. This alone could fill hours of reflection, but what strikes me most this year is Simeon.

Every night I recite in Compline (Night Prayer) those words of Simeon.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Words from this ancient man who lived his life for God, and at this moment he sees the fulfillment of his hopes and dreams, the messiah has come.

Today’s feast, indeed most every night while praying Simeon’s words I feel a little shot of coldness run down the spine of my soul.  I am praying the words of a man who had never known the messiah, recognize him and give greeting through his praise to the Father.  And here am I, 2,000 plus years later, with the fullness of revelation being passed on to me in the Bible and through the Magisterium of the Church, Christ’s bride.  I have been given millennia of examples, through the writings of the Church Fathers and the countless witness of the saints.  I have visited the hallowed grounds of Marian apparition sites, great cathedrals, and other places of worship.  I have been blessed with all of this, as Simeon hadn’t, and I can’t help but fearfully wonder whether I have truly greeted our Lord, as Simeon did.

Pope Francis, speaks of taking on the smell of the sheep, and I am afraid I don’t.  I am afraid that every time I go out and walk past Christ in the faces of those I meet I never breathe in deeply; never recognize the smell of sheep; never welcome it. There is no greeting of our Lord. He is presenting Himself to me in those others and I never properly present myself to Him through them.

The Pope speaks of going to the fringes and I fear that I haven’t left the center.  I have stayed in the safety of the sacristy, not daring to venture out and radiate the light that I have been given.  I have not gone to meet Christ who has come to meet me.

The Pope speaks of a believer as ‘essentially one who remembers’.  And I fear that I don’t remember, truly remember; because I fail to see in this world the glory of God in everyone.  I fail to mourn with the mournful; come to the help of the suffering; look through the eyes of the marginalized. I am deaf to the bells of the leper. I fail to embrace Christ, when through these He is embracing me.

In Evangelii Gaudium Pope Francis, quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict’s words: ‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person.’ In today’s Gospel we see four witnesses to this in Mary, Joseph, Anna and Simeon.  Would that I can truly make my own Simeon’s words in his great canticle:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

May each of our hearts be open to these words and allow the Holy Spirit guide us to the awareness that Simeon had as he presented himself to our Lord.

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