The Scriptures are full of beautiful imagery. The evangelists and Saint Paul were masters of creating a perceptive picture through the use of well-placed words.
In the Gospel According to Saint Luke (Luke 2:25-35), it is recorded that the elder Simeon, a “just and devout man” of Jerusalem (v.25), is assured through a visit by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord Christ (v.26). Most often in Byzantine iconography, Simeon is depicted receiving the 40-day old child in his arms. Upon receiving the Christ-child, Simeon utters a prayer which is used liturgically in the Orthodox Church, and is sung as “St Simeon’s Prayer.”
What we do not know is how long Saint Simeon the Righteous Elder waited. We can only assume it was for a very long period of time. The icon of the Feast of the Presentation into the Temple (February 2) pictures him as an elderly man with a long beard, with forward leaning posture. Years, perhaps decades, is more than likely how long St Simeon waited. How his hands must have trembled when the moment to hold the Christ-Child had finally arrived; and then he proclaimed his readiness to die. His life had been fulfilled.
The whole of the Righteous Simeon’s life was lived in expectation and hope.
Assuredly, each of us has experienced similar feelings of expectation that an encounter can bring.
Is there anything more wonderful than to live in expectation of an encounter with someone or an event that transcends time? The excitement this encounter brings can often define the rhythm of our daily life for a very long time, even so that we that we often live in anticipation from one encounter to the next, often filled with great expectation. One encounter ends, then we begin preparation for the next one.
The question that really begs for an answer however, is what do we live in expectation for? Is it necessary, and will we experience God’s presence in that encounter. Perhaps equally as important to ask, is my life being transformed into holiness by God’s grace by that anticipation into something that is essential?
As Christians, we live in expectation of the Kingdom to come, and do so by laboring to acquire gifts of the Holy Spirit. And once there, in the eternal and everlasting Kingdom, there will once more be encounter, the final one with Christ, the same Person Saint Simeon holds tenderly embraces into his arms.
May our life be lived in continual expectation of the final encounter with Christ, and that he will welcome us into eternal life wrapped in the arms of his warm embrace.
- Fr Marc Vranes