Feast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Hearts in Harmony with Him
Feast of the Meeting of Christ in the Temple
2 February, 2008
Hebrews 7:7-17 ; Luke 2:22-40

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

I think that it is important for us to remember as we are celebrating this Feast of the Entry of the Lord into the Temple (also called the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple) that in the beginning of the course of all creation, the Lord puts a particular order in all things. He gives us this order to live by for a good reason : that we should be healthy, and that we should be a life-giving sort of person. There is an order in God’s creation, and in everything about us, and, in fact, in our history. We are not necessarily always so willing to acknowledge this, because we are raised to consider everything that is happening as being quite random (which is not exactly how it is).

Here we are today, in the Temple, with our Lord. Our Saviour is being brought into the Temple in Jerusalem by His parents, to do what is required according to the Law. When He is forty days old, He has to be presented in the Temple, accompanied by sacrifices, because He is the first-born son in the family (in this case, the only son). Therefore, they come, and they are doing what is in accordance with the Law. While they are yet in the Temple, two persons come to them : first, Simeon. This passage does not tell us exactly who Simeon is. What we need to know is that this old man, who had been told by the Lord that he would see the Messiah, recognises Him immediately when he comes into the Temple today. It has to be understood that this is not just some sort of happenstance. This old man was an old man in harmony with the Lord. His heart was in such harmony with the Lord that when our Saviour now appears before him as a child, this old man knows for certain Who He is, because his heart is telling him. Simeon understands in his heart because the Lord clearly told him that this is the Messiah, the Promised One. That is why he says : “Lord, now you are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:29-30). Simeon points out in this particular hymn who this Messiah is, and what He is about to do. He is the salvation of the people, Israel. He is also the Light to enlighten the Gentiles : that is us. I believe that all we who are here today are amongst the Gentiles. This is what the promise is : He is the Light to enlighten the Gentiles.

Then after this, comes the very old woman, Anna. According to the writings of some commentators, it seems that she is only 84 years old. However, the way I have been accustomed to reading these passages is that she has been a widow for 84 years, and that besides this, she was a wife for a short time. This is how the Greek seems to put it. Therefore, this holy woman is definitely no “spring chicken”. So much for these ideas that people only lived for twenty or thirty years in those days. Maybe that might have been some sort of average because of sickness, death and destruction, and so forth, but some people did live to a very great old age, and not only just this particular woman. At any rate, she comes into the Temple, and she confirms what Simeon has just recognised and proclaimed. She recognises the Messiah. She speaks about Who He is to all who will hear her. We may very well presume that after this encounter, her heart would have repeated to the Lord words similar to those spoken by Simeon earlier. No doubt she would now have been ready to be received herself by the Lord.

It is important, as the Apostle is saying to us in the Epistle to the Hebrews, to pay attention to the way the Lord works in and with His own creation. There was a particular order in the Jewish society at the time. There were two sorts of priests. There was the Aaronic priesthood – those were the ones who were charged with making the regular sacrifices, and so forth, in the Temple. There were the Levites, who were in charge of looking after everything else in the Temple, somehow – they were preparing things one way or another. There was a sort of co-operative. Thus, we see that there are the priests who are specifically the descendants of Aaron, and the priests who were the descendants of the Patriarch Levi. They were of the same tribe, but they had different responsibilities and functions. The Apostle says that in the same way that Melchisedek was both a king and a priest at the same time (but was not related in any way to either of these priestly lineages), so is the Saviour. The Apostle points out that our Saviour comes from the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah is the tribe which is producing kings. From the tribe of Judah, the Apostle says, no priests have come. The Apostle is making a point of this. The Saviour comes from the kingly tribe, and He is fulfilling the prophecies about where the Messiah should come from, and to whom He should belong as the legitimate descendant of King David. At the same time, our Lord, God, and Saviour, Jesus Christ, like Melchisedek, is a Priest. Why ? It is because He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us. The words of the Liturgy of Saint Basil help us to understand this, when Saint Basil writes that our Saviour is both the One who offers, and the One who is offered ; He is the One who is received, and He is the One who receives. He is beyond Melchisedek. That is why the Apostle is drawing our attention to this.

At the same time, because He is Lord of the creation that He creates, He also is capable of making adjustments in the order of creation for our good from time to time. We generally do not expect it, and, for the most part, we are confused when it does happen, as people often have been (especially in the early days after the Incarnation). Who is this ? Our Saviour does not exactly fit what we expected. The Jewish people expected an earthly kingdom : our Lord gives us the heavenly Kingdom. He is a King, and He is a Priest at the same time, like Melchisedek, but beyond Melchisedek. They were not prepared for such things. The Lord, in His love for us knows what is good for us, and He knows how to prepare us. He knows what to do with us. He knows what is necessary for us, and for our salvation.

The Lord works His wonders, as He always does – loving us, caring for us, protecting us. He is, in fact, asking us to have hearts that are like these two elders, Simeon and Anna – hearts that are in tune with Him, in harmony with Him, ready to recognise what is His will, what is His way, what He wants us to do, instantly able to recognise His will, just as these two old people did. They recognised that what was happening in the Temple was fulfilling the Lord’s will for our salvation. Thus, we say at the end of this Divine Liturgy that in his arms, Simeon carried our Saviour for us, and for our salvation. All these things are accomplished for us and for our salvation because the Lord loves us. He cares for us. He is with us in everything, no matter how difficult our lives are ; no matter how complicated things are ; no matter how painful things are. He is with us. It is important for us to keep our hearts in Christ, so that He can always be refreshing us, renewing us, strengthening us, healing us, and making us strong to the glory of the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.