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Meeting of the Lord

Forty days after Christ was born he was pre­sent­ed to God in the Jerusalem Tem­ple accord­ing to the Mosa­ic Law. At this time as well his moth­er Mary under­went the rit­u­al purifi­ca­tion and offered the sac­ri­fices as pre­scribed in the Law. Thus, forty days after Christ­mas, on the sec­ond of Feb­ru­ary, the Church cel­e­brates the feast of the pre­sen­ta­tion called the Meet­ing (or Pre­sen­ta­tion or Recep­tion) of the Lord.

The meet­ing of Christ by the elder Sime­on and the prophet­ess Anna (Lk 2:22–36) is the main event of the feast of Christ’s pre­sen­ta­tion in the Tem­ple. It was “revealed to Sime­on by the Holy Spir­it that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2:26) and, inspired by the same Spir­it, he came to the Tem­ple where he met the new-born Mes­si­ah, took him in his arms and said the words which are now chant­ed each evening at the end of the Ortho­dox Ves­per service:

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy ser­vant depart in peace, accord­ing to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy sal­va­tion which Thou hast pre­pared in the pres­ence of all peo­ples, a light for the rev­e­la­tion to the Gen­tiles, and for glo­ry to Thy peo­ple Israel (Lk 2:29–32).

At this time as well Sime­on pre­dict­ed that Jesus would be the “sign which is spo­ken against” and that he would cause “the fall and the ris­ing of many in Israel.” He also fore­told Mary’s suf­fer­ings because of her son (Luke 22:34–35). Anna also was present and, giv­ing thanks to God “she spoke of Jesus to all who were look­ing for the redemp­tion of Jerusalem” (Lk 2:38).

In the ser­vice of the feast of the Meet­ing of the Lord, the fact empha­sized is that Christ, the Son and Word of God through whom the world was cre­at­ed, now is held as an infant in Simeon’s hands; this same Son of God, the Giv­er of the Law, now him­self ful­fills the Law, car­ried in arms as a human child.

Receive him, O Sime­on, whom Moses on Mount Sinai beheld in the dark­ness as the Giv­er of the Law. Receive him as a babe now obey­ing the Law. For he it is of whom the Law and the Prophets have spo­ken, incar­nate for our sake and sav­ing mankind. Come let us adore him!

Let the door of heav­en open today, for the Eter­nal Word of the Father, with­out giv­ing up his divin­i­ty, has been incar­nate of the Vir­gin in time. And as a babe of forty days he is vol­un­tar­i­ly brought by his moth­er to the Tem­ple, accord­ing to the Law. And the elder Sime­on takes him in his arms and cries out: Lord now lettest Thou Thy ser­vant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy sal­va­tion, O Lord, who has come to save the human race—glory to Thee! (Ves­per Vers­es of the Feast).

The Ves­pers and Matins of the feast of the Meet­ing of the Lord are filled with hymns on this theme. The Divine Litur­gy is cel­e­brat­ed with the lines from the can­ti­cle of Mary form­ing the prokeimenon and the words of Sime­on being the vers­es for the Alleluia. The gospel read­ings tell of the meet­ing, while the Old Tes­ta­ment read­ings at Ves­pers refer to the Law of the purifi­ca­tion in Leviti­cus, the vision of Isa­iah in the Tem­ple of the Thrice-Holy Lord, and the gift of faith to the Egyp­tians proph­e­sied by Isa­iah when the light of the Lord shall be a “rev­e­la­tion to the Gen­tiles” (Lk 2:32).

The cel­e­bra­tion of the Meet­ing of the Lord in the Church is not mere­ly an his­tor­i­cal com­mem­o­ra­tion. Inspired by the same Holy Spir­it as Sime­on, and led by the same Spir­it into the Church of the Mes­si­ah, the mem­bers of the Church also can claim their own “meet­ing” with the Lord, and so also can wit­ness that they too can “depart in peace” since their eyes have seen the sal­va­tion of God in the per­son of his Christ.

Rejoice, O Vir­gin Theotokos, Full of Grace! From you shone the Sun of Right­eous­ness, Christ our God, enlight­en­ing those who sat in dark­ness! Rejoice and be glad, O right­eous elder; you accept­ed in your arms the Redeemer of our souls who grants us the res­ur­rec­tion (Tropar­i­on).

By Thy nativ­i­ty, Thou didst sanc­ti­fy the Virgin’s womb. And didst bless Simeon’s hands, O Christ our God. Now Thou hast come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Ortho­dox Chris­tians, O only Lover of man (Kon­takion).

It is cus­tom­ary in many church­es to bless can­dles on the feast of the Meet­ing of the Lord.