Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:25–32
Simeon probably felt like I do, looking for the consolation of his people. That occupied, oppressed Israel, this chaotic America, this pathetic Virginia, this infested Church, looking for consolation and hardly finding a moment of peace. And yet he kept coming back to the temple, asking God for that consolation, for he was “righteous and devout,” and believed what the Holy Spirit had promised him. He understood the fidelity of God, and in that, he understood profoundly who God is. This is a man who could recognize God: in the Holy Spirit’s words, when they came to him, and in the child Jesus, when he was presented at the temple. He knew him then because he had always known him. I can only imagine how happy Simeon was to see and to touch the God he had known all his life, and how happy Jesus was to see and to touch the man he took on humanity for, there to hug, to remind of his love. A closeness they had all their lives, finally realized in matter.
And again Simeon profoundly understands him. Once he has met him, he no longer fears death, for he has seen the saving power of God. He can turn over his own life, the fate of his people, and even the fate of their Gentile oppressors into the hands of this child. He can go in peace. God is faithful, and he did what he said he would, and he always will. It is striking not just that Simeon believes in God, but that God chose to make a vow to Simeon and keep it. God did not have to do that, he could have surprised him with the visit rather than promising it to him. But he wanted to, he could not contain his excitement. He wanted to show Simeon kindness, and so he did. And so with me.
Today is the feast of the Presentation, the feast of this encounter between Simeon and the child Jesus, and for me, a day of particular grace. This was the feast on which I was chrismated into the Orthodox Christian tradition, and though I have since returned to the Catholic Church, this feast retains great saving power for me. This is the day when I remember God drawing me close again, anointing me again, reminding me of my consecration to Him forever—for you can only be baptized once!—and making it clear to me that he would be my God wherever I went. I did not realize then how significant this feast would become for me, nor how significant it was for Simeon. God came to be our consolation, our salvation, individually, collectively, our peoples as much as our very selves. And so we have nothing to fear, really, except being without him.
Our baptism has the character of a vow, but so too do the words of God in Scripture, where he has made promise after promise to us, and kept them. He is faithful, and he will do it, as he has done for Simeon, and is doing for me, and will do for you.