Saturday, February 3, 2018

Feast Day of Saint Simeon

Today is the feast day of Saint Simeon.  Those of us who celebrate Candlemas on Feb. 2 will remember this man as the one who had been told that he would see the Messiah before he died.  When he held Jesus, he said the words that many of us still use as part of our liturgies:  "Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."

It's a brief appearance, but if we go back to read the Gospels, we may be surprised to realize how short these texts are.  Very few people get much space on the pages.

We honor Saint Simeon because of his faithfulness.  We don't know much about him, so we project a picture of steady belief, even as he gets ever nearer to death.  But I suspect that part of his outpouring of words comes from having some doubts along the way.

The thoughts I've had during this Advent to Candlemas season have revolved around the old people who are part of this story.  I'm guessing that in most churches, the emphasis is on the young people:  the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus.  We watch our children act out the stories of characters not much older than they are.

As I wrote in December, this year the story of the older cousin Elizabeth really leapt out at me from the Advent stories.  I have a number of friends who are in their 50's and older.  I'm 52.  We've seen our bodies betray us in a number of ways, but pregnancy is not on our list of expectations.  If I'm honest, most of us would not see a late life pregnancy as miraculous news, but we don't live in the same kind of culture as Mary and Elizabeth did.

And now, with the Candlemas story, we see old people again, Simeon and the prophetess Anna.  The churches of my childhood didn't spend much time on the old people in any story.  The lectionary readings focus on Jesus and the disciples, who are often presented as men in the youthful prime of their lives.

I'm forever grateful to feminist scholars who have returned to these texts and given them a new spin as they imagined what would happen if we moved women to the center of the narratives--or, if not the center, at least out of the marginal shadows.

I feel a need to do something similar with the stories of the old folks.  Elizabeth, Simeon, and Anna are great places to start.

Today, let us remember that God makes us a similar promise to the one that Simeon receives.  We need but open our eyes to see the presence of the Divine.

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