The gift of faith


“Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple…” (NRSV, Luke 2:27)

The episode of Simeon is one of the most beautifully told in the whole of the New Testament.  In its vividness, achieved by a remarkable economy of words, it recalls one of those brightly coloured miniatures which decorate the capital letters in old illuminated manuscripts.

We are shown the aged Simeon, his saintly face aglow with faith and expectation as he climbed eagerly and purposefully the steps leading up from the vast outer courtyard of the Temple to the gateway which in turn opened onto the first inner court of the Temple building itself.

In the ordinary way he would not have come until the time of the afternoon sacrifice.  On this particular day, however, he had been brought by an inner prompting from God which he recognised as the prelude to the long awaited fulfilment of God’s promise to him.  For it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Anointed, the long prophesied Messiah and Deliverer.

So he stood there within the inner court, scanning the faces of the people as they passed through the gateway.  Soon he was rewarded.  Mary, with Joseph at her side, reverently entered carrying in her arms her Divine Son.  The bystanders and passers-by would not have noticed them, but Simeon was given by God the inner spiritual vision to recognise the identity of the holy Child.  Without hesitation he went up to Mary and taking her Infant into his arms, he blessed God and said the prayer which we now know as the Nunc Dimittis.

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