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Musings on Simeon’s Canticle

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Strictly speaking, today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord should be the closing of the Christmas season. It is the 40th day since the birth of Jesus when Mary had completed her days of purification to leave Bethlehem and offer her child with Joseph in the temple in accordance with their law that “every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord” (Lk.2:23).

And like Christmas, we find in the Lord’s presentation his Cross looming tall, enlightening us how Jesus and his Cross, joy and suffering, life and death cannot be separated. In Simeon’s Canticle, we find that life’s many contradictions make living wonderful and meaningful, too! (See our Sunday homily, https://lordmychef.com/2022/01/29/living-loving-amid-contradictions/).


He (Simeon) came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him in his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Luke 2:27-32

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, March 2020.

Coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life.”

First thing we realize in this beautiful canticle of Simeon is the true meaning of joy in finding Jesus wherein we learn to befriend death as we come to terms with life and living. It is difficult to explain but evidently, it was pure joy that led Simeon bursting into a song.

St. Paul had a similar experience while in prison which he tried to explain to the Philippians when he wrote, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, for that is far better. Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit” (Phil.1:21-24).

Those who have cared and lost a loved one to cancer or any terminal illness have experienced Simeon’s canticle. Remember when our loved ones have finally accepted their fate, when they suddenly become more emotionally stable and even joyful in their dispositions? Unlike before when they were first diagnosed with their illness, they were so afraid, always crying but as they came to embrace the reality, they cried less with a strong sense of courage while we are the ones crying more and most stressed out?

That is because the dying must have seen their direction, their final destination in life.

Like Simeon, they have seen God in the light of Jesus Christ while we who are to be left behind cry more not only due of the pain and sadness of separation but because we do not know where we are going, where we are heading to once our loved ones die. Feel the courage and confidence of Simeon boldly telling God to take him at that instance because he had found “the way, the truth and the life”, Jesus Christ!

Too often, we Filipinos take it as a joke, perhaps laughing to dismiss the topic or cope with the reality that to see God means to die like when we say “gusto nang makita si Lord”. But, that is the truth that Simeon is telling us in today’s gospel which is more “felt” in our own language, “Kunin mo na, Panginoon, ang iyong abang alipin, Ayon sa iyong pangako, Yamang nakita na ng aking mga mata ang iyong pagliligtas” (Lk.2:29-30). Imagine Simeon like the teenagers telling God to take him “now na!”?

Here we find at the presentation of the Lord in the temple how Simeon realized that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life.

Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara, 2020.

“Coming in the Spirit is living in the presence of God.”

Second thing we find in Simeon’s Canticle is the preeminence of the Holy Spirit in his life. We can never experience and find Jesus without being attuned first with the Holy Spirit who animates us and opens us to Christ’s coming.

Imagine the great crowds of people at the temple on that day, of couples trying to fulfill the law of Moses of purification and presentation of their first-born sons to God. How did Simeon know Joseph and Mary were the parents of Jesus? How was he able to accurately spot and find Jesus is the Messiah amid the many male children being offered on that day at the temple?

“To come in the Spirit” like Simeon is more than being faithful to God; it is having a good and pure heart that is ready to believe and act openly with courage, always looking forward at the fulfillment of what we believe. Coming in the Spirit is being at the right place at the right time when we make things happen than wait, exactly how Luke portrayed Simeon and Anna who both lived in the presence of God! Coming in the Spirit in living in the present moment in God.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Principle and foundation of life”

Thirdly, we cannot see Christ nor live in the Spirit unless we humbly submit ourselves to God, our Lord and Master. Seeing Christ and living in the Spirit presuppose humility before God – we his creatures, he our Lord and Master.

Most of all, God our origin and our end too!

It is the principle and foundation of life as St. Ignatius of Loyola stressed in his Spiritual Exercises, “El hombre es criado para alabar, hacer reverencia y servir a Dios nuestro Señor, y mediante esto, salvar su anima”, that is, “Man is created to praise and serve God his Lord and Master and by doing this save his soul”.

There is something so beautiful and lovely, so touching in the opening verse of Simeon’s canticle that underscores firmly this basic truth we have always forgotten since the fall of Adam and Eve: “Now, Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all the peoples” (Lk.2:29-31). Every time we sin, we act like Adam and Eve, playing gods, desiring to be like God.

Also known as Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s canticle echoes the fiat of Mary to God during the Annunciation, expressing his fidelity and humility, his total submission to God. Most of all, it summarizes both the Magnificat of the Blessed Mother and the Benedictus of Zechariah, making Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis the finale in Luke’s Christmas “concert” on the birth of the Messiah.

This is the reason why we sing or recite Nunc dimittis at the end of our Night Prayer called Compline from the Latin completorium for “completion of the waking day”. It is the perfect prayer to close each day as we prepare for the coming brand new day to meet Jesus again, hoping we may be enlightened us in our life’s mission.

Or, if ever we do not wake up the following day, we thank God all the more in making us meet Jesus the past day, eager to finally sing to him our praises in eternity. Amen.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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