December 29th Presentation of Jesus In the Temple and Simeon

All the Mass readings for today are here

The Gospel : Luke 2 : 22-35 is one of my favourites.

When the days were completed for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written in the law of the Lord,

Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,

and to offer the sacrifice of
a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,

in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.


James Tissot painting of Simeon

This man was righteous and devout,
awaiting the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him.
It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple;
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus
to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
“Lord, now let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:

my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you prepared in the sight of every people,
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,
“Behold, this child is destined
for the fall and rise of many in Israel,
and to be a sign that will be contradicted
(and you yourself a sword will pierce)
so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The old rites gives way to the new. Simeon was a devout scholar and representative  of the Old Testament and now he realised that here in his arms, the child Jesus was the embodiment of the New Testament. 


The action of the Holy Spirit on Simeon  is mentioned three times :

"the Holy Spirit was upon Him; 
"It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit
that he should not see death
before he had seen the Christ of the Lord."

and "He came in the Spirit into the temple" 

For anything profound to happen in our lives we have to be open and attentive to the action of the Holy Spirit .
"One body, one spirit in Christ ",we are told in the Mass but sadly we are often far from that.
Simeon hints that the way will not be a smooth one because Jesus will be " a sign that will be contradicted. "


The ability of Christ to reveal the thoughts in the hearts of men and women in how they respond to Him is evident through so many examples; 

I'm thinking of just a few here: the reviled rich tax collector Zacchaeus who was moved to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Christ, was invited down and made a meal for Jesus in his own home and was made a new man; the Samaritan woman at the well who knew that the Messiah, Christ was coming and Jesus replied " I who am speaking to you, I am He."  
After her encounter with Christ she dropped her water jar and ran back to the town to tell the people " Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did !"

On the strength of her testimony many came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah;the faith of the centurion who said that if only Christ said the word, his servant would be healed.There are countless others. 

But Christ was a sign of contradiction :-His truth brought reconciliation to some and enmity to others.
So it was - and still is today. 
Mary's heart would be pierced as are many women's hearts so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

Mary and Joseph had given their lives totally to the movements of the Holy Spirit and were full of the  power of instinct and receptivity to God .

I can think of instances in my life when I was open to the action of the Holy Spirt, when I was moved to give up my secure job and comfortable life and go to work in Malawi.

Yet there are obstacles that the Holy Spirit would find in my life now and I have to make a space for silence in my heart  so that the noise of  other worldly voices that clamour for attention won't  drown out His word.
There are so many lessons I can learn  from the presentation in the temple.  

Christ's whole life was imbued with teaching the rest of us what it means to listen and act on the power received from the Holy Spirit.  He said " But the hour will come- in fact it is here already - when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth;that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is Spirit , and those who worship must worship in Spirit and truth." ( John 4.23- 24)

This week I present myself to Christ in the temple of my own heart and hold my whole life up to Him for this coming New Year to be filled and refreshed with His Holy Spirit and to act on it. !!
It may seem contradictory, that Mary's heart could be broken, ripped into shreds, lying open and bleeding while at the same time knowing the peace and joy of her son Jesus.
I don't know how it's possible but I know it does happen. I have experienced it and so have millions of other people.

I saw it in my mother who knew she was going to die of cancer and despite being racked with pain and sadness and fear at facing death there was an expectation in her that I was able and privileged to witness , a hope that she was moving to an  eternity with Christ that  seemed to overshadow and give meaning to her death. 

The nunc dimittis is a Christian canticle using the words of Simeon in Luke 2:29-32, beginning "Nunc dimittis servum tuum" (Lord, now let your servant go).

Nunc dimittis painting from here

Candlemas poem from Denise Levertov

With certitude

Simeon opened
ancient arms
to infant light.
before the cross, the tomb
and the new life,
he knew
new life.
What depth
of faith he drew on,
turning illumined
towards deep night.


The beautiful video below is the Taize chant  of Simeon's song/Nunc Dimittis, " Let Your Servant Now Go In Peace"

So, back to Christmas. I believe that what began in a dank, dour stable over 2,000 years ago transformed the world and changed the lives of countless millions of people who believed in Jesus Christ. He gave them power to become children of God.

I believe that the joy of that first Christmas contains the hope of all the ages and that the power of the Holy Spirit behind Christ's birth moves through us and can give meaning to all our lives and deaths here and now.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful reflection Phil. I am so blessed to have found your site.

Philomena Ewing said...

Thanks Andie :-))). Dear friend, Your presence, comments and support give me so much heart.
Love your site too !!