Tuesday, 15 July 2014

St Luke 2:21-39

St Luke's Gospel, chapter 2, continues now with the circumcision of Jesus, and includes the third New Testament canticle (albeit one not used in the Benedictine form of the Office; its use at Easter-time is a modern import from the Roman), the Nunc Dimittis:

21 Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur puer, vocatum est nomen ejus Jesus, quod vocatum est ab angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur. 22 Et postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis ejus secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, 23 sicut scriptum est in lege Domini: Quia omne masculinum adaperiens vulvam, sanctum Domino vocabitur: 24 et ut darent hostiam secundum quod dictum est in lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum. 25 Et ecce homo erat in Jerusalem, cui nomen Simeon, et homo iste justus, et timoratus, exspectans consolationem Israël: et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo. 26 Et responsum acceperat a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi prius videret Christum Domini. 27 Et venit in spiritu in templum. Et cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus, ut facerent secundum consuetudinem legis pro eo, 28 et ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas: et benedixit Deum, et dixit:

29 Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: 
30 quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, 
31 quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: 
32 lumen ad revelationem gentium,et gloriam plebis tuæ Israël. 

33 Et erat pater ejus et mater mirantes super his quæ dicebantur de illo. 34 Et benedixit illis Simeon, et dixit ad Mariam matrem ejus: Ecce positus est hic in ruinam et in resurrectionem multorum in Israël, et in signum cui contradicetur: 35 et tuam ipsius animam pertransibit gladius ut revelentur ex multis cordibus cogitationes. 36 Et erat Anna prophetissa, filia Phanuel, de tribu Aser: hæc processerat in diebus multis, et vixerat cum viro suo annis septem a virginitate sua. 37 Et hæc vidua usque ad annos octoginta quatuor: quæ non discedebat de templo, jejuniis et obsecrationibus serviens nocte ac die. 38 Et hæc, ipsa hora superveniens, confitebatur Domino: et loquebatur de illo omnibus, qui exspectabant redemptionem Israël. 39 Et ut perfecerunt omnia secundum legem Domini, reversi sunt in Galilæam in civitatem suam Nazareth.

And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb. [22] And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: [23] As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [24] And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: [25] And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.[26] And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. [27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, [28] He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:

[29] Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; 
[30] Because my eyes have seen thy salvation,
[31] Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: 
[32] A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 

[33] And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. [34] And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; [35] And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.[36] And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. [37] And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. [38] Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. [39] And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 26.—And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. “It was revealed” by a divine oracle and promise—the Greek expression is χζηματίξειν. “The Lords Christ”—the Messiah, anointed with the unction of the Holy Spirit and the plentitude of grace. (Isa. xi. 2.)

In this Simeon was privileged far beyond Abraham, Isaac, and all the patriarchs and prophets, who, as the apostle says, Heb. xi. 13, “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and embraced them.” Hence it is plain that Simeon was a man of singular holiness, and full of holy aspirations and zeal.

Ver. 27.—And he came by the Spirit into the Temple. By the impulse of the Holy Spirit, moved and incited by the Holy Spirit, say Euthymius and Theophylact. And the same Spirit who urged him thither gave him the sign by which he should know Christ among so many infants that were then being offered in the Temple, or, rather, showed Him to him, inwardly prompting him and saying, Behold, this is Christ, whom I promised thee that thou shouldst see before thy death.

Timothy, a priest of Jerusalem, in his Oratio de Simeone, thinks that he must have seen the Virgin surrounded with light in the midst of the other women, and by this mark understood her to be the Mother of the Messiah. The Carthusian (Denis), too, says, “Perhaps he saw some divine splendour in the countenance of the child.”

Hence we may learn how God guides the mind and the paths of His saints that they may fall in with the good predestined for them by Him. Wherefore we must pray diligently, especially when about to undertake a journey, for this direction, that we may be preserved from evil, and blessed with good issues; saying with the Psalmist, “0 Lord, show me Thy ways and teach me Thy paths,” Ps. xxv. 4 “Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 35.

We read, in the life of S. Ephrem, that, when he was entering a certain city, he prayed to God that he might fall in with something that should edify him. A harlot met him, and stared so hard at him, that he asked with great severity why she acted so immodestly; and he received this answer, “Let woman look upon man, for from him was she made, but let man fix his gaze upon the earth, of which he was formed.” The man of God felt that the rebuke was just, and, being deeply touched by it, gave thanks to God because he had received from a harlot a lesson so salutary...

Ver. 29.—Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. Lettest thou—in Greek α̉πολύεις, loosen, as it were, from the prison-chains of this body, that I may go to the liberty, peace, and rest which the fathers in limbo enjoy. In peace, so Tobias, ch. iii. 6; and Abraham, Gen. xv. 15, desired to die in peace. Euthymius here understands by peace—

1. The calming of his feelings, which had fluctuated between hope and fear with reference to his seeing Christ.
2. The peace of an intrepid soul that did not fear death.
3. His joy.
4. Peace may be taken to mean that security from the dangers of the world which death brings.  S. Cyprian (Tract. de Moralitate, c. i) says, “joyful at his approaching death, sure that it must soon come, he took the Child in his hands, and, blessing the Lord, lifted up his voice and said, Now Thou dost dismiss, &c., . . . thus proving and bearing witness that then is there peace for the servants of God, then an easy and tranquil mind when, delivered from out the whirlpools of the world, we make for the haven of our eternal habitation and our peace.”

Thy word. Thy promise, says Theophylact, when Thou didst promise to prolong my life until I should see Christ; now have I seen Him, therefore let me depart and die.

Symbolically, S. Augustine (Serm. 20 de Tempore) says, “Now, Lord, let me depart in peace, because I see thy peace—Christ, Who shall make peace between heaven and earth—between God and angels and men—between men and themselves.”

And Simeon obtained his wish from God, for soon after he went to his rest.  S. Epiphanius (De Prophetarum vita, c. xxiv.) puts S. Simeon among the prophets. “Simon,” he says, “departed this life full of years and utterly worn out; yet did he not obtain at the hands of the priests the last honours of burial.” He gives no reason, however, why this should have been so, but it is thought that, in openly announcing the advent of Christ, he brought upon himself the envy and hatred of the other priests.
Tropologically, the Church sings this hymn of Simeon every evening in the Office of Compline, for two reasons—First, to admonish the faithful, and especially ecclesiastics, to think upon death, and so live as though they were to die in the evening; and, again, that they may acquire that yearning which Simeon felt to pass away from the vanities and troubles of this life to the true and blessed life in heaven, begging of God to be permitted to depart, and saying with Paul, “I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.” “Behold how the just man,” says S. Ambrose, “as though shut in within the gross prison-house of the body, wishes to be loosed, that he may begin to be with Christ. But he that will be set free, let him come to the Temple, let him come to Jerusalem, let him wait for the Lord, let him embrace Him with good work as with the arms of faith. Then shall he be set free, that he may not see death, because he has looked upon life.”

Ver. 30.—For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. “Salvation,” in Greek σωτήζιον, the word used by the Septuagint as a rendering of the Hebrew ישוצח, iescua, safety. “Safety” is used by metonomy for “Saviour.” By “salvation,” then, we are to understand the Saviour Christ, whom the ancient fathers desired to see, but Simeon alone saw, touched, and embraced.

Ver. 31.—Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. That all the nations of the Gentiles may draw salvation from Christ the Saviour. God has not hidden Christ in a corner of Judæa, but has set Him forth before all men, and soon will announce Him throughout the world by His Apostles, that all who will embrace His faith and law may be saved by Him.

Ver. 32.—A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. Thou hast given Christ the Saviour that He may be a light for the enlightenment of the Gentiles, enlightening with His faith and worship the Gentiles who know not the true God, and also to be the glory and honour of the Jewish people. TheArabic has, “the light that hath appeared to the nations.” In the same way we have in Ps. cxviii. ii 8, “Open Thou” (that is, illumine) “mine eyes.” The allusion here is to the prophecy of Isaiah, made seven hundred years before, in ch. xlii. 6, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house;” and in xliv. 6, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” In the Mass, and particularly on the Feast of the Purification, we bless candles, light them, and carry them about, thereby (1) symbolising our belief in Christ as the light of the nations, and (2) praying that He will grant us in this life the light of His grace, and in the other life the light of His gladness and His glory. And it is for this reason that these lighted candles are put into the hands of the dying. See Amalarius, Durandus, and others, who have written on the Offices of the Church.

And the glory of Thy people Israel. 1. Because Christ, promised to their forefathers by God, took upon Himself the flesh of their race, and was a Jew.

2. Because He lived and died in Judæa, His life being made glorious by His teaching, His holiness, and His miracles.

3. Because He first founded His Church in Judæa, the first believers having been Jews, who afterwards gathered the Gentiles to themselves.

4. It was in Judæa that He rose from the dead and gloriously ascended into heaven, sending down thence the Holy Ghost with the gift of tongues.

The allusion is to Isaiah xlvi. 13, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory;” and lx. I, “The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee;” and ibid. 2, “His glory shall be seen upon thee.”...

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