Tuesday, 22 February 2011

St. Simeon

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
 Well, here I am running a bit behind schedule again.  Maybe this is just a sign of my getting older -- I no longer seem to be able to keep up with myself!  Anyway, here I am, better late than never.

Today's posting presents an older icon that somehow never got published.  I dragged it out again this month because February contains the feast days for St. Simeon of the Presentation.  I say "feast days" because he has several depending on which part of the ancient Church one now belongs to!  Let me explain.

In the Latin Church, Simeon the Righteous is celebrated as part of the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple of Our Lord Jesus Christ which is celebrated on February 2nd.  He also shares a feast day on February 3rd with St. Blase (the healer of throats).  In the Orthodox churches, because they use the Julian calendar, the feast of Simeon the Righteous falls on February 15th.  Finally, in the ancient Armenian Church, the Feast of the Nativity of Christ (Christmas) is always celebrated on the 6th of January which means that they celebrate the Feast of the Presentation on the 14th of February at which time they venerate St. Simeon.  Whew!  I hope you can figure all that out.

At any rate, whatever the feast days, St. Simeon is always considered an exceptionally holy and devout Jewish man.  He appears in the Gospel of Luke who tells the story of what has come to be known as the "Presentation in the Temple".  The feast actually centers around the memorializing of the act of Blessed Mary undergoing an act of ritual purification and the presenting of Jesus, her child, in the Temple.

Under Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered "unclean" for seven days; moreover, she was to remain for 33 days "in the blood of her purification" for a total of 40 days.  Thus counting from Christmas, the 40th day is February 2nd.  This is the day, therefore, when the Church celebrates Blessed Mary's "purification" and the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple as a "son of Abraham".

The way that St. Simeon gets into the story is that he was waiting in the Temple day after day, year after year.  Why?  Because he had been told in a dream or a vision from God that he would not die before he had actually seen, laid eyes upon, the Messiah -- the one that God would send to save His people, Israel.  So on that day, 2000 years ago, Simeon was waiting, as usual, near the place where new parents came with their infant sons for the ceremony of presentation.  St. Luke tells us in his gospel that Simeon was given special insight so that when Blessed Mary and St. Joseph appeared with the Christ Child, he immediately recognized Him as the promised Messiah.  He took the child in his arms and looking up to Heaven, he spoke those words which have come to be known in English as the "Song of Simeon".

It is the beginning of this "song" which you see written on the scroll hanging from St. Simeon's hand in my drawing.  The modern English words that we say in this short song are as follows:

"Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, Your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people; a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."

This song is part of the daily liturgy of a number of Christian Churches all of which are held at the ending of the day.  Some examples are:  the Catholic Church liturgy known as the Office of Compline; the Orthodox liturgy of Vespers; the Anglican liturgy of Evensong.

Personally, I am very fond of the "Song of Simeon" and have said it for many years while praying the daily Office of Compline.  I will always associate it with the soft sound of the voices of the nuns with whom I lived for a few years -- the nuns who taught me how to pray what is known as the Divine Liturgy and to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude.

Let's now leave the heights of liturgical prayer and enter into good-natured fun.  I want to show you some photographs I came across recently -- a couple of which gave me a good chuckle when I first saw them.  I hope they will make you smile a bit as well.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall (car, actually)..."
Here we see a beautiful creature gazing into the mirror at itself.  I always wonder what animals see when they look into a mirror!  Whatever this delightful creature sees or doesn't see, I was reminded immediately upon seeing this photo of the wicked queen who had a mirror into which she looked each day.  As she looked, she would say: "mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"  The well-trained mirror, knowing what was required to keep from getting smashed and thrown in the garbage, always replied:  "you are, my queen"!

Gull's outrage casts out fear
I find this photo amazing.  Here we see a gull attacking an eagle -- a bird of prey which kills with deadly precision -- a bird that strikes fear into the hearts of almost all other birds.  Amazingly, the gull has the eagle on the run.  This is the type of thing you see happen in the spring and summer when birds have a nest full of young.  Most of us have been almost hit by an angry Robin or Starling as we innocently walk along not realizing that we are passing directly underneath their nest.

Emergency! Nose dive crash landing! Emergency!

This is my favourite of today's "funny" photos and caused me to chuckle out loud when I first saw it.  I do hope that none of this duck's friends or family were close by when the crash landing occurred.  I am sure they would never let him forget it!   Maybe this is Mallard the Klutz that we are seeing here -- always bumping into things and landing face first into the snow or water.  If he made this kind of landing on the ice, that would really smart!  Actually, I can't tell for certain if this is a male or female mallard.  It looks as though it could be a female, but then it could also be an immature mallard experiencing his first winter -- their colouring, whether male or female,  is similar to the adult females   

Sweet home Alabama
This final photo for today is posted not for novelty but for nostalgia.  The scene reminds me so much of the Gulf coast of Alabama and north Florida.  It is so beautiful there -- especially in the fall -- and the Great Blue Heron is a common sight, fishing in the shallows of a cypress grove.  I bet it is really warm down there today in comparison to Toronto's -21 wind chill!

There is nothing new to report from my house.  I had a wonderful visit with a dear friend recently.  She only gets up here from the states a couple of times a year so it is always great when I do get to have a visit with her. 

I also had a phone call from a cousin with whom I haven't spoken in about 50 years!  It always amazes me how easily we pick up right where we left off even after years have passed.  He placed a call after he got off the phone with me which led to my being called by an acquaintance who married one of my high school classmates.  She was someone I knew as even then she was dating the classmate of mine she later married and we were often at school events together. 

Then I heard on the weekend from a couple of very dear friends who were going through difficult times.  Sometimes I really wish God would let me have a magic wand so that I could fix problems for people!  Of course, fixing a problem for someone without being able to see their entire life already lived and what they will face in the future would probably cause them even worse problems.  I think I had better leave the fixing of things to God.  My job is to pray.

The latest news of Suki is that I made the mistake of getting a laser light -- this cat is now dangerously addicted to chasing that red light and can drive me almost crazy sometimes by begging me to bring out the light again so she can chase it!  Oh, well, maybe she will lose a bit of weight!

May the peace of God be with you all.

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