By Deacon Daniel Malyon
“However, this true joy found in Christ is not simply a joy for ourselves but rejoicing in the successes of other, even if we would not usually associate with those others.” For My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation | By Deacon Daniel Malyon.
Next week the Church commemorates the Feast of the presentation of our Lord at the temple, when St Mary and Joseph took the infant Christ to the Temple ‘to do for Him according to the custom of the law’ (Luke 2:27). This feast commemorates the event of the 40th day after the Nativity and also serves as a reminder of the universal message of Christ’s coming to grant us salvation.
However, something I wish to focus on when considering this feast is the person of Simeon the Elder, and the twofold message as to the meaning of joy we can draw from his reaction to witnessing the presence of the infant Christ.
So, what do we know of St Simeon from this passage? We are told in Luke’s Gospel that Simeon was, “just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” (Luke 2:25) In this alone we get at least some understanding of his demeanour, as a man of faith and patience and as someone with a love of God close to his heart. The hagiographical tradition of the Church expands on this, telling us in the Synaxarium reading for 8th of Meshir that he was, “was one of the 70 elders who translated the Old Testament from Hebrew to Greek.”
This would usually raise a number of eyebrows, since it would make Simeon around three hundred years old, though the Synaxarium goes on to explain that he was often troubled by the fear of fear of translating Isaiah 7:14 as “the virgin will conceive”, for fear of mockery, to which the Lord “God revealed to him in a vision that he would not die before he would see Christ the Lord born of a virgin,” to allay his fears.
Though Hagiographical tradition is often history laced with pious elements to express Christian values, Simeon and his joy at the of Christ sends an important message regarding the message of Christ and the meaning of true Christian joy.
Luke 2:28 tells us of his immediate reaction to the appearance of Christ with his parents. We are told that he, “took Him up in his arms and blessed God…” In this manner we are to ask what our reaction of our first experience of Christ is to be. To many of us it is daunting, a final wait for our salvation has been found but we are too weighed down by our worldly concerns to find the joy of Christ which Simeon did. However, we must look beyond our own cares and remember that Christ’s message of salvation is one of joy to all people in all times.
As St Cyril of Alexandria states in his commentaries on Luke, “the mystery of Christ had been prepared even before the very foundation of the world, but was manifested in the last ages of time,” in his revelation to Simeon he broke the long wait of Simeon, and in his revelation to all he end their wait. This is surely something to give us joy beyond all else. And Simeon’s response to Christ goes beyond simple joy but speaks of both the eternal and the universal message of Salvation brought forth through his nativity.
On the individual level, Simeon’s response starts by proclaiming his personal joy in the coming of Christ, and his celebration of the end of his long wait. He says, ““Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation.” (Luke 2:29-30). In this we see Simeon is taking joy in Christ for the salvation achieved on a personal level. He had waiting for this day for his whole life, likely questioning whether he had understood the prophecies correctly.
He also knows this has meant that the Prophecies in Isaiah took a more universal meaning, the message that, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) declaring the end of the wait for gates of Heaven to be reopened. Through this is also revealed the message to us all when we first experience Christ, that the wait is over and the search has ended. We are in Christ and he has become our salvation.
Therefore we come to discover that Simeon’s response is also one of joy for the people of Israel, the Gentiles, and the whole world. He expresses this in Luke 2:31-32 saying, “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 this we see the other side of joy in Christ, joy for the salvation and successes of others as opposed to simply those of ourselves.
The extent of Simeon’s joy here is shown in his poetic wording, speaking of Christ a light to those who didn’t know of his eventual coming him and joy for those who do. He does not jealously guard this salvation or emphasise his own joy above that of others but glories in Christ’s coming to all.
Going back to St Cyril’s discussion of this passage, he also emphasises this second type of joy in Christ, stating how Simeon glories not only in his own salvation but because “Christ therefore became the Gentiles’ light for revelation: but also, for the glory of Israel,” thus coming for the salvation of all. This reaction to the infant Christ is one we can all learn from in our own lives. We often tend to emphasise our own glories, or our own successes in our spiritual lives and even secular lives.
However, this true joy found in Christ is not simply a joy for ourselves but rejoicing in the successes of other, even if we would not usually associate with those others.
If we follow the example of Simeon, and radiate out joy in Christ, we become a light to others. We can become a living beacon of the message that through the revelation of Christ to both ourselves and others we have a reason to celebrate. And in this we have our reason to cry out in true joy, as Simeon did.
“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.” (Luke 2: 29-32)
By: Deacon Daniel Malyon | A Deacon of St Paul’s Ministry and St Mary & Pope Kyrillos VI Church. United Kingdom ~ Coptic Diocese of London.
Delivered to you by COPTICNN™ | Coptic News Network on 2021-02-12 from London, England
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