Today we keep the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. We remember in the Gospel reading that the Holy Family are greeted by Simeon, who says those words which are repeated by the priest as he circles the altar, censing the Gospel, and are read in the Midnight Praises…
Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.
In all things, the Lord Jesus, God incarnate, fulfilled the Old Testament Law. The Law which had been given not as a means of salvation, but to manifest the weakness and sinfulness of man. He alone was able to keep it perfectly, being both man in every way that we are, yet without any sin. And in keeping it, he fulfilled it. It came to an end, because in his own person, by his incarnation, God was introducing a means of salvation rather than condemnation.
As the Lord Jesus says to us…
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Therefore, on our behalf, since we were unable to preserve ourselves from sin, he kept the whole Law for us, and here, in this passage from the Gospel we see that he was both circumcised according to the Law, and was presented to God in the Temple, where a sacrifice was offered according to the Law, because he was the first-born, and God had commanded that the first-born should belong to him. Truly this first-born, this Son of Mary, belonged to God, because he was God and was the Son of God.
How long had Simeon waited for this special child to be brought to him? There is a Tradition that he was one of those Jewish scholars who were translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek in the centuries before Christ. And he had been given the book of Isaiah the Prophet to translate. When he came to the verse that says, Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son, he wanted to change these words so that it said, a woman shall conceive. At that moment an angel appeared before him and said…
You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin.
And so it was, that Simeon had waited for the salvation of the Lord. Perhaps he was as old as this tradition proposes. But he was faithful to the very end. And in his faithfulness he was righteous, and devout, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. His time of waiting had not been wasted. On the contrary, this time, this long time of perseverance in faith and hope, was for the purpose of preparing him to see and hold the one for whom he had been waiting, the Word of God made flesh, the Saviour of the world.
It is the same for us, in the periods of waiting which we are called to endure with faith and hope. Those times, those long times, when we wait for the salvation of the Lord to come into some family, or church, or work situation. But this time is necessary for us, it is part of the working out of God’s will, because it is we ourselves who must be transformed by perseverance, by faithfulness, by the experience of hope and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. If we hold on to God, and to his Word, then the time will come, in God’s time, and in God’s way, when we also see the salvation for which we have been waiting and praying. But the waiting and the experience of union with God in faithfulness, is already our salvation.