My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation

Today is the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. It recalls the Baby Jesus being brought to the Temple by His mother and foster father to present an offering to God on behalf of the firstborn son. You see, in the Mosaic Law, the firstborn son is “holy” unto the Lord. In Exodus 13:2 God commands the people to consecrate the firstborn male to Him. By the way, this also includes all the male animals as well. They are all supposed to be given to the Lord. And so a system of offering God a sacrifice in the Temple was made so that the family could offer God thanks for the firstborn.

And while Mary and Joseph are bringing the Lord to His Temple, a righteous man named Symeon saw the Child and took Him in his arms. You see, Symeon had been told by God that he would live to see the Messiah, and Symeon recognized Jesus when He was brought into the Temple. And Symeon says his now famous words about seeing the Lord’s salvation. But what did he mean by that?

Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Luke 2:22-40:

At that time, the parents brought the child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Symeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Symeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

You see, the time of the Lord’s First Coming was a time when “Messiah fever” was running high! The People of God knew that the prophets had declared the Messiah would come and many of them thought that time had arrived. So the society was prepped for the coming of the Messiah. In fact, there had been several men claiming to be the Messiah around this time but each of them was discredited. However, Symeon saw Jesus, and the Spirit told him “He’s the One!” Of course, Symeon was told he wouldn’t die before he had seen the Messiah, so seeing Jesus was Symeon’s cue that now was the time for him to die!

But Symenon knew what the Messiah meant, not just for the nation of Israel, but for all of humanity. And we see that because Symeon declares that this salvation has been prepared in the presence of “all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of your people Israel.” This wasn’t new information. The prophets had been clear that the coming of the Messiah wasn’t just a blessing for Israel. No. God has always intended to save the whole human race.

There’s more. Symeon also knew that this Child would cause conflict and even be hated because His coming would uncover “the thoughts of many hearts.” This Child being presented in the Temple that day would reveal the true intentions and motivations of us all; the good; the bad; and the ugly! Nothing can hide in the Light of this Child!

No wonder the Church calls us to celebrate this Feast today. We relive this singular moment because Symeon’s words still resonate today. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and He has come to save the world and His coming really does reveal the hearts of us all. Our Normal Orthodox life invites us to see all this as a good thing meant to transform us to be like Him. Thank God.

P.S. Hail Virgin Theotokos full of Grace, for Christ our God, the Sun of Righteousness, has dawned from you, granting light to those in darkness. And you, O Righteous Elder, rejoice, taking in your arms, the Deliverance of our souls, who grants us Resurrection.

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