On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This great feast, which commemorates that event at which Mary presents herself and her child in the temple for purification prayers forty days after the birth of her Son, is the culmination of the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. Once again, this feast reminds us of the Incarnation of God. As a man, Christ is submitting Himself to the Law that all might be fulfilled. We are confronted again with the amazing truth of the Incarnation —that God lowered Himself to become a man so that man might be lifted up out of his sin. Christ was truly a man, “like us in all respects save sin,” says St. Paul. While remaining fully God, He submits Himself to the Jewish law as a man, “For I come not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” Upon their arrival at the temple, Mary presents the Christ Child to the Elder Simeon. It is this “meeting” that the feast celebrates. The second person of the Trinity “meets” his people as represented by Simeon, allowing mankind to embrace its creator and the author of its salvation.
How many times have we heard those words uttered in church? Countless times, no doubt, for they are uttered at every Vespers service and at the churching of infants. Perhaps we have heard them so many times that the words flow right past us.
But listen! Do you really hear what is being said? Simeon the Elder, he who originally spoke these words, certainly knew their import. In fact, Simeon is asked to explain in one of the hymns of Great Vespers preceding the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord: “Simeon, tell us: whom dost thou bear in thine arms that thou dost rejoice so greatly in the temple? To whom dost thou cry and shout — Now I am set free, for I have seen my savior?” And Simeon responds: “This is He who was born of a Virgin: this is He, the Word, God of God, who for our sakes has taken flesh and saved man. Let us worship him.”
It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had beheld “the Lord’s Christ.”
Simeon knew what he beheld. Simeon knew he could now “depart in peace,” for he had encountered his salvation, the source of his eternal peace. He knew once he had embraced His savior, that life was fulfilled and death was nothing to be feared. Upon meeting Christ, his joy was complete. In Simeon, we see the response of a man who has encountered his salvation. Let us ask ourselves, what do we encounter when we enter the Temple? Who is it we expect to see? Who is it we embrace as Christ is presented to us? Each time we enter Christ’s Church, we are offered the opportunity to embrace our Savior. Through the services and the sacraments, He is a living reality, the savior of our souls, the granter of eternal peace.
Do we receive Him? Or do we allow the distractions of life to cause Him to pass by unnoticed? Simeon shows us the way — He is faithful, he is patient, he is obedient to be where he needed to be in order to embrace his salvation.
The Word uncircmscribed, above all being, who rides in glory on the heavenly thrones, Symeon takes into his arms and cries, ‘Now release me, according to your word, my Saviour, the salvation and delight of the faithful’.
When he saw you, the Word begotten from the Father before the ages, as an infant, wondrous Symeon cried out, ‘I quake and tremble to hold you in my hands, my Master. But, I beg you, now release your servant in peace, for you are compassionate’.
Now let the heavenly gate be opened. God the Word, begotten beyond time from the Father, has been born from a Virgin, taking flesh, for as he is good he wishes to call back mortal nature and set it at the Father’s right hand.
Today the holy Mother, who is higher than the Holy Place, has come to the Holy Place, revealing to the world the Maker of the world and the Giver of the law. Symeon the Elder took him in his arms and cried with veneration, ‘Now you release your servant. For I have seen you, the Saviour of our souls’.