‘Now, You dismiss Your servant in peace,
according to Your word, O Master;
for my eyes have seen Your salvation,
which You have prepared in the sight of all the peoples;
a light for revelation to the nations,
and the glory of Your people Israel.’
There is something profound in these words of the holy man, Simeon, as recounted in the second chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel. They are uttered at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, where Mary and Joseph have taken the divine Child to give Him to the Lord. Immediately recognising the Child as the promised Messiah, Simeon takes Him in his arms and makes this declaration of praise. In saying these words, Simeon acknowledges that the promise of the Lord has been fulfilled now – that he would not die before seeing the Holy One of God. Simeon has waited a lifetime for this moment – always believing, always expectant – and it has now come. Simeon’s believing has been the first part of the process; the second part is his recognition when the moment arrives.
Known as the ‘Canticle of Simeon’ or the ‘Nunc Dimitis’ (from the initial words in their Latin form), this prayer is now part of the official prayer of the Church, recited during Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. For all of us who pray those words, it is a reminder that the Lord is always faithful to His word, that He always keeps His promises. But it is something else, too – it is a counsel that we, like Simeon, should always be ready to meet the Lord, that we are to anticipate His coming, which for each of us individually might be at any moment.
In living out our Catholic Faith, we are very blessed – we have indeed seen that salvation, that light prepared for all the nations, Whose name is Jesus Christ. More than anything else, our Faith is a living relationship with Him, a relationship that touches and encompasses every moment of our lives, transforming them. Throughout life, we see as though in a mirror; but one day, we shall see the Lord as He really is.
The Canticle of Simeon is a recognition and an anticipation of that moment. Pray God that when it comes, we, like Simeon, will be ready to take the Lord in our arms, and to let Him take us in His.