Canon Jim Irvinethe penultimate WORD
February 2000
...for my eyes have seen your salvation...

The Irvine Tartan  My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican

 

Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.
Luke 2: 29

The walk wasn’t extraordinarily long, a few kilometres, not much more. Mary had regained her strength. The swaddled baby, nestled in the curve of Joseph’s arm, slept. Each step drew them closer to the Holy City and to the Temple. Theirs was a happy task: the Mosaic Law set their sights on Jerusalem and now the forty days were accomplished.

The greeting of passers-by pleased Mary and energized Joseph’s stride. Their conversation spoke of the future and hopes and dreams shared by parents in every generation. Plans for the shop that would instruct the boy in Joseph’s trade allowed dreams to drift northward to Nazareth. And Mary’s questions, too, found voice, but little else. Dreams and visions and confusing statements remained clouded.

The well-traveled roadway turned towards the City Gate and their pace quickened.

In the precincts of the Temple faces passed by; some they recognized, some they knew by name, and amongst them all one approached and stopped.

Simeon was his name. And he was old.

Holding the child in his arms, Simeon beheld the face of nativity and in the returned gaze discovered an epiphany, a promise kept. As the faces of Mary and Joseph neared in curious apprehension and pride, the faint voice of wisdom uttered a dismissal: "Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word… " And in that dismissal an epiphany made: the discovery of salvation.

"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples," added Simeon.

The evangelist John recognized the glory of the Lord in terms of grace, and truth. Luke on the other hand, records Simeon’s words expressed in terms of salvation, salvation prepared in the presence of all peoples. Incarnation turned another way, and true to the presence of God among us.

"A light for revelation to the Gentiles," concluded the old man, "and for glory to your people Israel." In the particular hope held by Simeon, he perceived the breadth of God’s grace in the embrace of a nativity, a baby reaching out to a world within the covenant of Abraham and beyond - a salvific gesture of grace that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had prepared from the foundation of the world.

And in his arms Simeon knew that an age dawned, as close as the sour sweet smell of infancy that reached his nostrils and filled him with hope, with each breath he took.

The paradox of life and death each holding the other in its arms: a pattern of epiphany set and known with the meeting of birth and approaching death in the moment of Presentation.

An epiphany not unlike the opportunities I have known in the infants I have held at the font over holy waters. An epiphany not unlike the discoveries I have had in the gaze that has penetrated my eyes as I have poured holy waters flushing over brow and new skin glistening in reflected candlelight. An epiphany not unlike the cherished moments I have kept to myself (as Simeon might have done) in caressing the brow with lips, uttering ever so softly, "For my eyes have seen your salvation."

You may have known such a gentle epiphany of God’s grace.

Or you may yet.

Copyright © 2000 James T. Irvine

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