“Let the gates of heaven be opened today; for the unoriginate Word of the Father, receiving a beginning under time, without abandoning His divinity, is of His own will borne by His Virgin Mother into the temple of the law as a babe forty days old. And Symeon taketh Him in his arms, crying: ‘Let Thy servant depart, O Master, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation! O Lord Who hast come into the world to save the human race, glory be to Thee!”
(Doxasticon of the feast on “Lord, I have cried…”)
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, Greetings as we celebrate the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the Synaxis of St Symeon the God-Receiver and the Righteous Prophetess, Anna.
As we celebrate the Meeting, we are struck by the quietness, we might even say the outward ordinariness of the background events of this feast.
A husband and wife of rather different ages, take their child to the Temple where the required purification rituals are performed for the mother, and where the child, as the first-born, is redeemed with the prescribed sacrificial offerings for those of poor means.
There would have been countless other families that day, performing these rituals after the birth of children, and amidst the solemnity of Temple-worship with its liturgical prayer and sacrifices, there would be little to draw the eyes of anyone to these parents, including the Virgin-Mother, her spouse and their Divine-Child.
The priests and Levites went about their liturgical business, totally ignorant that Christ who is Yahweh, the Eternal-Logos and their Creator had been carried into the precincts of the Temple. There was no triumphant greeting with the sounding of trumpets, and the Temple choirs chanting alleluias with the accompaniment of cymbals. No. The Messiah entered the Temple unnoticed and unknown.
And yet, the eyes of the righteous Symeon were drawn straight to this baby, for Whom he had waited decade after decade of his long life – awaiting the moment in which he could finally say that his eyes had seen salvation in the fragility of a baby only forty days old.
He knew that this salvation had been long prepared by Almighty God, and that the child he took in his arms was not only the glory of the Lord’s chosen people, Israel, but was born as the Light to enlighten the nations of the world outside the Abrahamic Covenant and the Law of Moses.
The prophetess Anna, having encountered the Messiah, “spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
How many baby boys had Symeon encountered and looked upon in the Temple during his long life, awaiting the prompting of the Holy Spirit to open the luminous eye of his heart, so that he finally could say, “At last… I have seen the Christ” ?
But – without the God-inspired testimony of St Luke, this theophany in which the two elderly righteous-ones recognised Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the witness and testimony of Symeon and Anna could have been lost – such is its quietness, at odds with the prophetic fulfilment, forestalling the testimony of the Forerunner and the self-revelation of the Lord’s ministry before His Passion and Resurrection.
The quietness of this theophany, is one that should prompt us to look into our own hearts, recognising that knowledge of theological facts is meaningless without understanding and illumination by the Holy Spirit, which make it possible for us to penetrate the depth of God’s love revealed in Christ, and the spiritual reality of our discipleship as His children and heirs of His promise; and, for each of us, the sanctuary of our heart should be the place where the divine-encounter of Syneon is mirrored.
Luke’s narrative of the Meeting of the Lord is a Gospel of true gnosis, but that knowledge can only come through living in prayer and contemplation.
This is how illiterate and totally uneducated men and women have, through the centuries, declared the deepest eternal theological truths, revealed to them by the Spirit of Truth, whom we ask to “come and enlighten us” each time we pray.
We may read volume after volume of theological writings, dogmatics, apologetics or canons, but the real encounter with Christ as the living Truth, only comes through understanding and illumination, and that very understanding and illumination ordinarily comes only through active spiritual living, in prayer, fasting and realising the Gospel in our lives – and above all through the Grace of God.
Though we are – of necessity – in the world, we must endeavour not to be chained and defined by what is worldly. We must rather be constantly seeking the heavenly, the holy, and eternal, placing our search for the face of Christ (in the Gospels, in the life of the Church, in our neighbours) above the entertainments and distractions of the world, which we have been called to put aside in the waters of baptism, where we should have died to the world and put on Christ.
Symeon and Anna had already abandoned their ties to the world, to externally commune with the Lord in the precincts of the Temple, and to internally commune with Him in the temple of the heart. From this communion came their recognition of the Lord, and in this feast we encounter them as true theologians, who prayerfully contemplated Truth, and were made complete by physically and spiritually gazing upon the face of the Incarnate-God.
Upon seeing the Saviour, St Symeon was ready to ask the Lord to let him depart this life, as he had received everything he desiredand needed in the momentary encounter with Christ.
If only this was true of us, and that knowing the Lord and being joined to Him through Baptism, being healed by Him in the Mystery of Repentance, and partaking of Him in the Mystical Supper was enough for us: for in these Holy Mysteries, each of us can say to the Lord, “mine eyes have seen Thy salvation…”
Inspired by Symeon and Anna, let us strive to struggle to live spiritually, as though we were already citizens of heaven, so that our spiritual eyes may be opened, that we may humbly and quietly struggle for the true knowledge and true understanding of inner-revelation.
Though the responsibilities and pressures of our lives may not retreat, their place in our lives may be radically changed as we seek the face of our Lord, who is our salvation and life; whose light may lead us through every uncertainty and sorrow, because He is all we need in the profound simplicity and quietness of Christian-living.