Today is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox calendar; therefore I think it excusable if I postpone the many pressing mundane tasks and meditate a little longer on one of my favorite celebrations.
As long as I can remember, the story of Christ being presented in the temple as an infant has brought tears to my eyes, because of the constancy and joy of Simeon, a “just and devout man” who had throughout a long life been waiting and praying for the Messiah. His words express a single-minded heart–his purpose in faithfully waiting had been fulfilled. What a sweet reward, to be the one to receive and hold the Christ!
When Jesus was brought to the temple at 40 days old, according to the law, Simeon (Luke Chapter 2) “… took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word: For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.’ ”
Thanks to Deb, I found this series of very informative postings that Matt wrote, linking all the events of this day through history, including Groundhog Day, which I will now always remember, in the background. (I did love that movie, whose lesson of humility is applicable throughout the secular or church year.) It is a neglected feast, our priest noted this morning, though our numbers weren’t too small this morning for Divine Liturgy.
Candlemas is another name for the holy day, and the church East and West has traditionally blessed candles on this day. I love candles as much as anyone. It’s been a happy thing to find that Orthodoxy has a whole day and an important feast that commemorates one of my favorite events in our salvation history. I leave carrying candles to burn at home and stretch out the joy for a good while, brightening and lightening up these winter days.
6 thoughts on “My Favorite Neglected Feast”
Thank you for these thoughts. The blessing of the candles is new to me. There is so much to learn and appreciate in Orthodoxy. Our priest also brought up the way that Simeon is a transitional figure linking the old covenant with the new. Coming out of dispensational theology these connections were always confusing to me.
Simeon knew what was promised, he recognized the promise incarnate and he both received former prophecy and prophecied himself. Pretty exciting.
And if you think of the trials Mary and Joseph have already been through, the strange messages of angels, the pregnancy and the journey and the unattended birth, it must have been a very joyous day to be safely presenting their son in the temple.
I have also always loved St. Simeon's story. It has been a precious blessing discoverying these feast days within the Church.
A correction to my words above: Orthodoxy actually has two days to commemorate this event, because as is usually the case with the Great Feasts, the day following is connected–today we remember St Simeon himself. I love that every day there is an event or particular person to celebrate.
Thank you for your beautiful post! I've never quite thought of the significance of Jesus being brought before Simeon. What a beautiful picture in my mind. Enjoy those candle and all that they symbolize.
We celebrated the feast on Sunday, (transfered because it fell on Clean Monday). It was lovely. We did it Greek style for the Liturgy (with the festal antiphons), but then we switched to Ukrainian style because we included the blessing of the candles, then we did the forgiveness service. It was the first time we had done it in our new church so we weren't quite sure what to do with all the space. We had become so accustomed to falling over each other that it seemed strange. 🙂