February 2 is the celebration of the purification of Mary after the birth of Jesus and his presentation at the Temple Luke 2:22-39. The passage also presents two prophetic statements, one from a man, Simeon, and one from a woman, Anna (although Anna’s specific words are not given, we are simply told, “At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”). Simeon’s words have become the basis for one of the most beautiful renderings of Scripture into chant and song, the Nunc Dimittis.
28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Simeon’s words are those of a man who has finally found peace. As such, they are a part of the Evening Prayer service. We too ought to be prepared and at peace since we have seen the salvation of the Lord. The old services understood the importance of praising God while recognizing our humanity as we enter into the night.
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awake
we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.
Since Mack’s death Elizabeth and I have both brought up these words as applied to ourselves. We are under no illusion that Mack was our savior, let alone the savior of the world, but his death “pierced our own souls.” There is that odd contrast that Simeon recognizes. While he is able to be dismissed “in peace” he knows that for many the coming of the Messiah would not bring peace. Mack has found peace and is with Christ and we shall be with him. Yet our soul is pierced and will remain so. Yet still…even with that knowledge we have the joy of one another and of our daughter and the knowledge that we will be reunited.
The anguish to mother, brother and sister, and friends as they saw Jesus die was immense and yet his death brought us all the salvation which God had prepared. We have the choice, whether we stay by the cross, allowing the waves of misery and grief to wash over us endlessly, or to go to the garden, to the empty tomb and welcome the joy of the resurrection.