“And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the Temple. And when His Parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law, he also took Him into his arms, and blessed God.”
1. Holy Simeon is a figure in the history of the Jews which is full of history significance. Just as Zachary and Elizabeth could not have been alone, but must have had many associates, faithful to the true tradition of the Messiah like themselves; just as the families from which Mary and Joseph came could not have been the only faithful households, but must have been associated with many others; so Simeon, and later the prophetess Anna, must have been two among many who were faithful in “looking for the consolation of Israel.” Of all that faithful background the whole of the New Testament tells us practically nothing; but one may say that in this the Gospels do not differ from history in general. In all times, under all circumstances, underneath the excitements of life which history most loves to record, there has always been, and there still always is, a great ocean of goodness on which the world ultimately relies.
2. Hence Simeon helps us to restore a right perspective in our estimates of mankind. We are always prone to make sweeping condemnations, forgetting that all generalizations of individual men must always be inaccurate. Though Bethlehem had no home for our Lord, not all the people of Bethlehem were His enemies; Bethlehem was the home of the Holy Innocents and their suffering mothers. Though the Jews of Jerusalem rejected Him, yet not all were opposed to Him; we have enough in Simeon and others like him to prove this. And so in our own time, no matter who may be our adversaries, temporal or spiritual, we may be sure that in their ranks there are sincere and many single-minded, looking, like ourselves, according to their lights, for the consolation of Israel.” And perhaps especially is this true of the Jews.
3. Simeon was apparently no man of action; he seems to have done nothing in particular. He may or may not have been a priest in the temple; St. Luke does not say so, though some may well argue that his part in this scene would imply it. But he was “just and devout”; he was true in his life and spiritual in his mind; he was a man of prayer, looking to the great end, and receiving communications from God. He was a contemplative, with a clean heart, and the two qualities gave him all he needed, the power to recognize our Lord when he met Him. “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.” Such a man is “led by the Spirit”; such a man is tried, but at the end of the trial it is given to “take the Child into his arms, and to bless God.”
Summary Meditation Points
- Simeon reminds us of the multitude of faithful souls who were looking for “the consolation of Israel.”
- He reminds us that there are many such outside our own ranks to-day.
- The prayerful nature of Simeon is the nature which most easily recognizes Our Lord.
Art: Hl. Simeon mit Christuskind [Saint Simeon with the Christ child], José de Ribera, 1647, PD-Worldwide, Wikimedia Commons. Archbishop Alban Goodier, S.J., www.stmaryscadoganstreet.co.uk, all rights reserved, used with permission.