Sunday, February 03, 2013

Seeing Salvation By the Light of Candlemas

Really, I know Christmas is over.  You might be wondering because I waited until the last week of January to post stories from our family's Christmas feast.  And today I'm sharing a piece I wrote for Christ Church's Advent devotional from 2011.  Truth is, the Lectionary directs us to the Presentation of Christ in the Temple on February 2 every year so am I to hurry us along from our celebration of the Incarnation?

This feast came to be called by the shorter and more beautiful name of Candlemas because the day it celebrates, recorded in Luke 2:22-40, is the day the old man Simeon took the baby in his arms and recognised him as ‘A Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel.’ 
Simeon's Song of Praise
Aert de Gelder

Simeon's poetic proclamation gave the Church the Nunc Dimittis, used daily for centuries in compline prayer.  In our own house the words of promise release us to peaceful sleep when we remember to join in with the prayer. 

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 people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

My personal meditation led me to Anna a year ago.  She is beautiful and I want to be like her when I grow up.


Seeing Salvation
by Tamara Murphy

Her father Phanuel’s name means “face of God”, but he only ever saw exile. Her husband married her at the appropriate time, but only saw seven years of wedded life before facing an early death. After the mourning was over she resolved to wait for a sight that would not only sustain her for life, but would enliven her people. Anna waited, fasted, prayed, day and night, in the temple, almost a hundred years, waiting for the arrival of God's Promised One.

During those years, she saw generations born, grow into adulthood, marry, give birth, grieve, worship, celebrate, suffer illness, chafe under Roman rule, grow old, die. Perhaps Mary, the mother of Jesus, sat under Anna’s tutelage, as church women have done for the next generation through the ages. Anna must have noticed this young woman, pure of heart and full of faith. Maybe she was even called upon to pray a blessing over her betrothal to Joseph. Perhaps this act of noticing day and night the rhythms of her people’s worship life is what led her to the temple at the exact moment the Messiah’s parents presented him at the temple. Or perhaps she was led in the Spirit as her prophetic counterpart Simeon.

Either way, we know long years of praying, pleading, fasting, loving the God of Christ trained the seer’s eyes for the moment she at last saw the face of his son.  She knew him when she saw him.  Anna and Simeon, ‘Grace’ and ‘God-Receiver’, prayer-bent their aging frames across the
silent divide between an old covenant and the new. The old temple saints served
witness, first-hand receiving the reward of long waiting, seeing the salvation of all peoples with their very own eyes.  


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