I wasn't surprised to hear of Simeon's death, although I had expected to be the first to go. I was the elder by a few years, but his body was tired: and after that wonderful day at the temple he was ready.
I will miss him. I will miss our talks about the coming of Messiah, about the great hope the God of our fathers had planted in his heart: that he would see the Lord's Anointed One before he died. And when the pain in his body became severe, that hope would carry him through. I never found out what exactly happened to him. Legend had it that he was in an altercation with some drunk Roman soldiers, and was lucky to be alive, but he never spoke about it.
I'm Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of Asher. Yes, that Anna. The one who practically lived in the temple since losing her husband after only seven years. The one they call the prophetess, who always had a word for everyone.
But that day, when Joseph and Mary brought their infant firstborn to the temple, that day I had no word for them. That day it was Simeon, normally the quiet one, who spoke the word of the Lord. And it was not an easy word. I could sense his inner struggle, but in the end he delivered it faithfully, and gently.
I was in the temple, as always. Simeon shuffled in late that morning and greeted me, then joined some of the faithful in their discussion. People were coming and going, just a normal day at the temple.
At about the seventh hour a young couple with a baby caught my attention. It was obvious that they were strangers coming to fulfill the law after the birth and purification. They looked around in awe, as if it was their first time in Jerusalem's temple - as it probably was - not quite sure what to do and where to go. I thought it strange that there were no parents with them, and decide to go and help them, but Simeon beat me to it.
He got up from his discussion, looked at the young couple, and his face lit up like the sun in all its glory. With remarkable speed he crossed the court of the women, grabbed the young father by the arm, and started talking.
His excitement was clear for all to see, and I wasn't going to miss this. I rushed over, just in time to see him taking the baby in his arms, looking up to heaven, with tears streaming down his weathered face.
"Sovereign Lord," he said in a loud voice, definitely not his normal quiet self. "As you have promised, now dismiss your servant in peace." The words were like a mighty bell ringing in my ears. "For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
My head was spinning. "My eyes have seen your salvation..." This baby? Could this be the Messiah? Simeon seemed absolutely certain, and I knew that the Spirit of the Lord was on him. He wouldn't make a mistake. I looked at the parents: They were looking at each other, as if not knowing what was going on, but the mother smiled for a moment.
And then I looked at the baby in Simeon's arms. In blink all my doubts were gone. He looked like any other baby of 40 days old, and yet he was different. As he lay there in the arms of the old man holding him, there was something so different about him that I knew without a doubt: I was looking at the Lord's Anointed One. The promise to Simeon had come true. The promise of the ages had come true. Our eyes were indeed seeing the consolation of Israel.
Slowly he turned his eyes from Simeon and looked straight at me. Into my soul. And as he looked at me I knew that my faith was not in vain. The Lord has not forgotten us. He has promised that the sun of Righteousness will rise, and he has kept his word.
Simeon, still holding the baby, turned to the parents, and slowly he recited the prayer of blessing over them:
"The Lord bless you
and keep you,
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you,
the Lord turns his face towards you
and give you peace."
It was dead quiet now. By this time everyone had noticed that something extra-ordinary was happening. Simeon looked down, and it was clear that some inner struggle was going on in him. Finally he lifted his face, looked at the child's mother, and said in a soft voice: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel. He will be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed." He hesitated for a moment, and then he said to Mary, so soft that just the parents and I heard him: "And a sword will pierce your own soul too."
It was clear that this was not what she had expected, but she took his words gracefully, and simply said: "Thank you, sir. The Lord bless you."
I helped them to finish business, and they brought their offering as required by the Law. Simeon gathered a few of our faithful friends for a fellowship offering, and we ate it with Mary and Joseph before they left for home.
This morning I heard that Simeon had passed away, and it brought back all the memories. I doubt that I will live long enough for Messiah to grow up, but in the words of my friend, I was also ready to be dismissed in peace, "For my eyes have seen the Lord's salvation."
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