The Song of Simeon

(Simeon) took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: “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 2:28-32

Following is my dramatization, if you will, of the Song of Simeon from my novel, The Substance Hoped For.

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In the priest’s court of the temple sat Simeon.  The rest of the priests went about their duties without paying too much attention to him.  They were either too young to fully realize the significance of who he was or too accustomed to his presence to let it make much difference…anymore.  He was too old to do any real work, but there were a few who still valued his wisdom and sought his council.  His true value was no longer in how many rituals he oversaw or sacrifices he made.  It was in his total experience, his accumulated knowledge.  And one other thing.

Simeon had spoken with God, and God’s replies were not discovered in a temple scroll.  It had been a conversation.  Simeon had been a good priest and found favor with Yahve.  In return for his devotion and righteousness before Him, God had promised something to him; a Personal Favor.  Simeon would not die before seeing the Christ of God in the flesh.

That promise, once made known, had caused no small disturbance among the priests, the sons of Levi.  That meant that the advent of the New Covenant was upon them, and that was a very troubling thought.

While the Children of Israel professed to be anxiously waiting for the coming of the Savior first promised to Adam and Eve and later to their father, Abraham, they were not necessarily ready for it.  This was a race of people whose heritage was waiting.  They had spent centuries and generations waiting for the fulfillment of prophecy.  Sometimes they did it well and sometimes not, but they waited…a lot.  Egypt and deserts had special meanings in their collective memory.  Their heritage of waiting had been passed down through the generations until it had virtually become their religion.

Until Simeon.  With his revelation came the scary realization that the prophecy was at hand.  He was fairly young when it happened, but even so everyone knows that a man will only live for so long.

After the initial flurry of soul-searching, however, most people came to see that nothing was happening right this moment.  The old conditioning set back in, and they waited.  They were perhaps a bit better at the waiting now, because there was a time frame that they could comprehend, but, given Simeon’s youth at the time, this could still take years.  Time dragged on, and the waiting assumed its familiar face.

Most people began to forget Simeon.  They stopped paying attention to how old he was getting, which was the obvious sign that something should be happening pretty soon.  The younger priests had heard the story but had not experienced it firsthand.  It was nothing more than another “bible story” to them, and they gave it no more credence than they did any other.  To them, Simeon was just an exceptionally old priest who should be dying any day now.  It didn’t look like any promise was going to be kept.  He was just a nice guy to have around and humor in what seemed to be his patient disappointment.

As he raised his eyes toward the steps that descended to the Israel Court where only Jewish men and boys were allowed, no one noticed.  When he stretched out his legs, some nearby were merely careful not to trip over him.  As he stood, a few priests cast a quick glance and had only a brief thought that Simeon must be changing his routine today.  When he started toward those steps, he started catching some real, if slight, attention…

Simeon approached Mary, who held Jesus tightly to herself.  She saw his face and the years that it wore.  She was a long while getting past the long, white beard and sallow, wrinkled skin.  She looked beneath the grizzled eyebrows and caught her breath.  His eyes!  They were so unlike the rest of him!  They were strong and warm and loving and… they were young!  They shone and twinkled and smiled at her.

A crooked, leathery hand cupped her face and thin lips smiled for her alone.  She felt as though she had been given a blessing.  Or was it a thanks?  She could not tell.

He broke his gaze from her and beheld the Child.  Jesus looked up at him with the sort of quiet, wide-eyed innocence that children save for new faces.  He even seemed to open His arms to Simeon, who slowly and gently lifted Jesus from His mother’s arms.  He nuzzled the Child playfully, eliciting a laugh from Jesus.  Simeon kissed His cheek tenderly as a father would and then cradled the Infant in the crook of his arm.  With his eyes raised to heaven, he spoke in a voice that was strong but pitched only for this small gathering.

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your Word.  For mine eyes have seen your Salvation, which You have prepared before the face of all people; a Light for the revelation of the Gentiles, and for the glory of Your people, Israel.”  He looked once more at Jesus, stroking Him as though He was the most Precious Thing he’d ever held.  A sadness entered him, and he turned to Mary.  “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is spoken against, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  And a sword shall pierce through your own soul also.”

Once more, the leathered hand cupped her face, and he gently kissed her cheek.  She locked onto his eyes again, but they had changed.  They had aged.  They were still of the same character she had glimpsed moments ago, but they had succumbed to a fatigue that had been held at bay too long.

He handed the Child back to her.  He seemed like a man who had feasted and finally had his fill.  Regretfully, he pushes back from the table, knowing that the great dinner has ended.  It’s time to sleep.

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