And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him 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 turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, 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 lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon 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 out 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. (Luke 2:21-40)
On February 2 in the Orthodox Church we celebrate the Feast of the Meeting (or Presentation) of the Lord in the Temple. In the Festal Menaion, we find a hymn for the feast written by Anatolios.
“The Ancient of Days, who in times past gave Moses the Law on Sinai, appears this day as a babe. As Maker of the Law He fulfills the Law, and according to the Law He is brought into the temple and given over to the Elder. Simeon the righteous receives Him, and beholding the fulfillment of the divine ordinance now brought to pass, rejoicing he cries aloud: My eyes have seen the mystery hidden from the ages, made manifest in these latter days, the Light that disperses the dark folly of the Gentiles without faith and the Glory of the newly chosen Israel. Therefore let Your servant depart from the bonds of this flesh to the life filled with wonder that knows neither age nor end, O You Who grant the world great mercy.”
In this hymn we see some of the theological understanding of this Major Feast of the Orthodox calendar year. Jesus is identified as the Ancient of Days from Daniel’s prophecy. Central to this Feast and to Orthodox theology is the fact that Jesus is the incarnate God. Symeon is holding in his hands, God become a little child. The incarnation is the salvation of the human race: the restoration of humanity, reconciliation with God and the reunion of divinity with humanity. Symeon says he physically sees salvation – salvation is Jesus Christ, the incarnate God. This Feast becomes a new way for us to celebrate the love and salvation of God.
May God bless all of us on this Feast day!