Simeon


Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.

A Song for Simeon [opening two stanzas]

by  T.S. Eliot

Reflection

“Let your servant depart in peace.  Now your Word has been fulfilled.”  This is what Simeon says when, at long last, he sees the Christ-child after a long life of awaiting the redemption of Israel.  His life’s goal now met – he is ready to die.  Elliot so poetically captures that moment, “My life is light, waiting for the death wind,

 Like a feather on the back of my hand.

 Dust in sunlight and memory in corners

 Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.”

At Compline - the hour of praying just before sleep each day - monastics sing the Song of Simeon which is also called the Nunc Dimittis, or “now dismiss,” and they conclude their prayers with, “May the all-powerful Lord, grant us a restful night and a peaceful death.  Amen.”  It is a persistent hope among the faithful of God that when the hour of our eternal rest arrives – we will be at peace.

So as we wait through Advent and as we consider the content of our own living the question naturally arises, “What must I do today in order to be at peace then?”  Elliot, riffing on the story of Simeon in Luke’s Gospel, offers some clues.  Keep the faith, provide for the poor, give honor, and never let any go rejected from your door.  These are echoes of the teachings of the Christ whose arrival has allowed Simeon to “depart in peace.”   It is the Christ-child grown into a man who instructs, “Give to everyone who begs from you [Luke 6:30 NRSV].”

So let us, this Advent, see the poor as Simeon saw the poor baby of these poor peasants from Nazareth (you will recall that Mary and Joseph had to give the pauper’s substitute sacrifice because they were too poor to offer what the law required), not as people to be despised and derided, but as children of God, loved deeply by God, who just might be the ones bringing the redemption of God into the world.

Prayer
Lord of all, Prince of Peace, you arrive to bring your peace to all and to establish a kingdom of reconciliation with God and between neighbors.  Help us who eagerly anticipate your return to prepare the way by living according to your commandments.  Give to us the same compassion that was in Christ and in Simeon that we might love others as you love them, and so be prepared to depart in peace.  Amen.