A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND THE GLORY OF YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL. This line from the Song of Simeon is familiar to us who pray it every evening here in our Compline hour of the divine office.  In praying this canticle at the last hour of the day we continue a tradition that is rooted in antiquity, for it was included at Compline already in the four hundreds, appearing in The Apostolic Constitutions that preserves the text.  As familiar as these words are, yet they remain replete with the fresh significance that is the mark of a divine mystery. For the light and glory of which Simeon speaks is that of the Word of God made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Son of God. Cardinal Newman, with his penetrating insight into the mysteries of the Bible commented, near the end of his life, that “Revelation” that Simeon here is granted him to behold in the person of Jesus, “is the initial and essential idea of Christianity.” Simeon, looking upon the infant Christ, sees in him the light who reveals God’s plan of salvation. He recognizes in this infant the very effulgence of God that is the glory of the Jewish people. We are reminded by Simeon’s words that the Revelation of God that is Jesus is an immense favor given us by the Father. This revelation gives us insight into the purpose of creation and of our human life that so many of the wise and learned of this world fail to understand. At this Eucharist we express our heartfelt gratitude to God for this gratuitous gift.

As we reflect on the implications of these words we begin to realize that they speak to us still today of another world than this visible universe. Saint Luke who reports this event informs us that the Holy Spirit was with this holy man who had set his hope on God having had earlier received a promise that before his death he would see the Christ of the Lord. Thus we are given to understand that Simeon’s exclamation upon encountering the infant Jesus is inspired, and so speaks of a divine reality revealed to him with God’s own authority. This entire scene then introduces us into the transcendent world where God is all in all, and makes the point that in Jesus a whole new dimension of reality is made present in this familiar world of ours.  History is being taken up into a new phase of the divine plan for the whole of mankind with the appearance of this child in our world. He is a member of the Jewish people and gives luster to his race, but he is not confined to the Jews; on the contrary he is destined to give to all peoples the light of understanding the purpose of life in this world.

Anna too is brought into this revelation by Luke. She represents the lowly and the poor who look to God for the meaning of their existence, and trust in him in their lonely desolateness. Of such as her Jesus was to speak in his Sermon on the Mount ““Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus, welcomed and recognized by the poor in spirit in her person as well as by his own mother, was in turn, in his work as preacher, to recognize in them objects of God’s special care and concern.  Surely for us today this feature of the Presentation speaks to us. In modern times when so much honor and prestige is associated with the rich and highly gifted, with the scientists and learned professors Anna reminds us that the most vital knowledge is the fruit of faith persevered in loyally. Looking to God for significance and overcoming the poverty of insignificance by a firm hope that is confident of God’s approval. The rich and intelligent, as witnessed by Solomon among others, are not excluded from such perception of the divine light, provided their hope and confidence are founded on the gift and grace of God. 

Early in the history of Israel there arose a keen persuasion that was formulated and made the basis of Jewish faith and formation to the effect that the root and source of penetrating knowledge and wisdom was not human intelligence and broad learning but rather a living trust in God. In the opening lines of the book of Proverbs, to name but one instance, we are assured that “The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge; fools hold wisdom and instruction in contempt.“ (Proverbs 1:7) How grateful we are for the great gift of faith that gives meaning to our life that has the solidity imparted as assurance that we already are destined for another world where is found the fullness of our very self in the loving presence of God. This Eucharist gives expression to our gratitude in that we offer at this altar, not only our own life with its hopes and desires, but are enabled to join in the offering Jesus himself makes to the Father on our behalf. May the grace we receive here sustain us as we strive today and always to make our decisions, our work, all our relations worthy of the light and glory that are ours as children of God. &   

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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