Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Giovanni Bellini, c. 1460-64 (via Wikimedia Commons
Can you smell the incense? Still my beating heart. The scene being played out in Luke 2:22-40 as Jesus is brought by his parents to Simeon in the temple moves the soul of anyone who loves the experience of liturgy beautifully offered, whatever the form. Such ritual provides a space to make connections, to engage our imaginations and take us to old places and new alike, all to fall in love again with the One who draws us there. “My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord” (Psalm 84:1)
Each year as this feast comes upon us I am immediately transported to quiet evenings in the chapel at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York. Singing the Nunc Dimittis, The Song of Simeon, as the Church has since the fifth century, calls me to deeper prayer as fragrant smoky trails float by. It seems that my presence is not so much my decision to show up, but that this place has been prepared and has been waiting for me to arrive. Mary and Joseph may have had a similar sense.
This day always evokes the yearning of my heart. As each note of the canticle passes by my lips in what I trust is Holy Spirit breath, the longing of my deepest center is recognized anew. Like Simeon I am on pins and needles. “These eyes of mine have seen the Savior.” I am amazed by the feel of the warm weight of the child touching my forearms. Where am I?
Longing is everywhere. It is found in the hearts of the young parents anxious for their child in that electric moment of naked trust as they pass their infant son into the arms of the elderly prophet. In that offering, past and future are bound together forever as time itself is transformed. It breaks forth in Simeon’s song – he did sing it, right? – as he cradles the hope of the world and is reawakened to his hunger and thirst for the glory of Israel called to offer God’s justice to every human being. It wells up from the depths of Anna’s soul who, as she looks on, cannot constrain the imagination of her heart that provides some sense of the purpose of her eighty-four years of prayer. Thanksgiving is her song.
For what do you yearn? What is the deepest longing of your heart? Go to that place. Dwell with it. The imminence of fulfillment dominated Simeon’s life and pervades the hopes of all in that temple moment. He was not content to live in the past. His yearning propels him into an expectant future of God’s faithfulness. The promise arrives. He puts out his arms to receive the grace given. His heart sings. The universe has a purpose calling for our cooperation. Maybe we too can sing ourselves into a radical openness to a new future.
Bishop Skip Adams
The Right Reverend Gladstone B. Adams III was elected and invested as our Bishop on September 10, 2016. Read more about him here.