The Meeting of the LORD in the Temple
The Feast of The Meeting of the Lord in the Temple (February 2nd)
Lord, now let Your servant depart 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 to enlighten the Gentiles and for the glory of Your people Israel. (Simeon’s prayer)
The extraordinary event that is celebrated on this feast day by the Church is much more than the affirmation that both Mary and Jesus fulfilled the Law with respect to the requirements of the rite of purification of the mother following the birth of a child and the simultaneous presentation and redemption of the firstborn male.
Instead the Feast is another revelation of the fulfillment of the Divine Plan for the salvation of mankind being confirmed by two witnesses, in accordance with the Law, who were brought together at the appointed time by the Holy Spirit. The woman bearing her child is the one of whom Isaiah spoke about when he prophesied that the Lord will give to the house of David a sign in that a young virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name shall be Emmanuel. The joint testimony of Simeon and Anna is the proof necessary according to the Law that the infant Jesus is truly the Incarnate Word, the long awaited for Emmanuel and that Mary is truly the Theotokos. For the Church the mystery of the incarnation is equally reflected in the mystery that an ordinary, fallen human being could be so holy and so pure as to be worthy to give her flesh to God.
Even though it is recorded that at the time of the Lord’s birth shepherds and magi came to worship the “newborn king”, they had no authority within the Law to attest as to the true identity of this child. After Simeon and Anna, the next one to testify that Jesus is the long awaited for Messiah is John the Baptist who saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus when He was being baptised, but according to the Law the testimony of one man is not legally binding. The Gospels do tell us that the Lord’s immediate family had great difficulty at times understanding what He was all about and at one occasion they even thought that He had lost His mind.
The fulfillment of God’s promise to Simeon and the prophecies that were proclaimed by both Simeon and Anna on seeing Jesus serve to bear witness to the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah. These things were said so that the world will know that when they did come to pass that Simeon’s attestation as to the fulfilment of the scriptures was indeed true.
In considering the available evidence that has been preserved in the tradition of the Church it is very likely that this feast was celebrated from early on since even Saint Irenaeus (2nd century) refers to Simeon’s all revealing affirmation that the Lord’s Salvation has been given to mankind as the son of Mary.
Illuminate my soul and the light of my senses, that I may see Thee in purity: and I will proclaim that Thou art God.
O pure Virgin Mother, why dost Thou bring into the Temple a newborn babe and commit Him into the hands of Simeon? (Matins)