Luke 2:22-38; Leviticus 12:2-8
The Story in Brief
Jewish law required new mothers to be ritually purified by offering a sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. Mary, always obedient and humble, went up to Jerusalem forty days after the birth of her Son to perform the ritual. Mary and Joseph also made the trip to present their firstborn Son to God, for all firstborn males were designated as holy to the Lord and had to be “redeemed” or “ransomed” through a ritual sacrifice. When the Holy Family arrived at the Temple, they found a man named Simeon waiting for them. Simeon was a devout and righteousness man who was waiting and watching for the Messiah. God had promised him that he would not die until he had seen the Savior. Led by the Holy Spirit, Simeon arrived at the Temple as Mary and Joseph were bringing Jesus in. Simeon reached out for Jesus, took Him into his arms, and praised God by proclaiming a prophetic word about the infant Messiah. He also warned Mary that she would experience sorrow as the Mother of the Savior. A sword would piece her soul. As Simeon finished speaking, an old woman named Anna approached the group. Anna had always remained in the Temple, fasting and praying. Now she praised God and immediately began to spread the word about the coming of the Messiah to all who were open to her message.
Points to Ponder
1. Mary and Joseph obeyed the Law when, technically, they would not have been required to do so. Mary was already pure, for Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus was already completely and totally dedicated to the Father. Why, then, did they go up to Jerusalem to perform the rituals?
2. Consider the irony of the immaculate Mary submitting to ritual purification.
3. It is significant that Luke doesn't specifically tell us that Jesus was ritually ransomed back as other firstborn sons were. Jesus was totally the Father's Son and, as such, was totally dedicated to God. Meditate on this truth.
4. Reflect on the wonder that Jesus, the Son of God, took on our humanity, entered into our condition, and identifies completely with us.
5. Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in order to present Him to the Lord. God was being presented to God. Ponder this.
6. Think about the uniqueness of Simeon. The Holy Spirit rested on him and guided him even before the Redemption. He was in an intimate relationship with God.
7. Meditate on what it means to be righteous (i.e., right with God and conforming to God's will).
8. Think about what it means to be devout (i.e, correctly performing what is right in religion, behaving morally, maintaining a healthy fear of the Lord, and fulfilling the duties of piety and humanity).
9. Simeon trusted in God's promise that a Messiah would come to comfort and restore Israel. The word “consolation” also implies a calling to God's side, a summons, and an invitation. Ponder the depths of the “consolation of Israel.”
10. Simeon had received the revelation that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He was ready; he was watching; he was waiting. He trusted, and he believed. Reflect on this special grace and on Simeon's response.
11. Consider Simeon's prompt obedience.
12. Simeon held God in his arms. Think about that.
13. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Messiah and approached the Holy Family. He was seeking, open, willing, and attentive. Imagine Simeon's response to seeing Jesus for the first time.
14. Simeon prophesied. He said things that he could only have known through the power of the Holy Spirit. Carefully consider Simeon's words.
15. Meditate on the descriptive titles for Jesus (i.e, salvation, light, glory, etc.)
16. Jesus came to His Temple. God came into His house in an entirely new way. Ponder this.
17. Simeon emphasized that God was the One Who had prepared salvation for all people, including the Gentiles. Meditate on God's wonderful work.
18. Why were Mary and Joseph amazed? They already knew Who their Child was, but perhaps hearing it from the mouth of another reminded them of God's awesome plan.
19. Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph. A very holy man blessed two very holy people. That's a whole load of blessing! Think about how we can bless the people in our lives even if we aren't nearly as holy as Simeon.
20. Simeon made a prediction to Mary. Jesus was destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. He was a sign that would be opposed. Mary's heart would be pierced by a sword. Ponder how joy is often tinged with sorrow.
21. Simeon said that the inner thoughts of many would be revealed. The truth would be known. The heart would become prominent. Interior relationship with God would go hand in hand with exterior religious practice. The external would spring from the internal. Reflect on these ideas.
22. Picture Anna. She had dedicated her life to God in a very real way by remaining always in the Temple and continuously worshiping through fasting and prayer.
23. Notice Anna's worship. It consisted of both fasting and prayer. Think carefully about the relationship between those two, self-denial and self-offering, letting go and letting God, giving up self to enter into a relationship with God.
24. Anna fasted and prayed night and day. Her focus was constantly on God. Reflect on Anna's dedication.
25. Anna praised God and then became an evangelist. Ponder how she spread the word about the Child to others who, like Simeon and Anna, were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
26. Reflect on Anna as our role model in her dedication, her praise, her evangelism, and her excitement.
1. How do you feel the Holy Spirit working in your life?
2. How would you describe your relationship with God?
3. Are you righteous and devout in the sense described above? How might you become more so? Do you believe that God will help you as you seek Him?
4. Are you watching and waiting for the Lord?
5. How is the Spirit guiding you? How are you responding?
6. Are you seeking God? Are you open and willing and attentive to Him?
7. Are you amazed by Jesus? What especially amazes you?
8. How often and in what ways do you bless those around you?
9. How have joys been tinged with sorrow in your life? What have you learned from those experiences?
10. Is your religious experience more internal or more external? If you answered “external,” how might you grow stronger in your interior relationship with God?
11. Have you ever felt like a sword has pierced you all the way to your soul? How did that experience affect your relationship with God?
12. Do you combine fasting and prayer? How might you fast more?
13. Have you dedicated your life to God? How might you better live out that dedication?
14. How do you spread the word about God?
15. Do you get excited about God? Why or why not?
16. What lessons can you learn from Simeon and Anna?
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
Blessing and adoration – Lord, You have come to Your Temple in a way no one expected. You came as a tiny, helpless baby. We adore You, little Jesus, and we bless You. We bow our heads in silent prayer as we contemplate You in Simeon's arms.
Praise – Jesus, You are amazing. You are the salvation of the world. You are the light for revelation to the Gentiles. You are the glory of Israel. You are the one destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel. You are the Sign that would be opposed. You are the One Who causes the inner thoughts of many to be revealed. We praise You, Lord Jesus, for Who You are.
Thanksgiving – O Jesus, how can we ever thank You enough for all You have done for us? We thank You for coming among us as a human being, one like us in all things but sin. We thank You for coming to save us. We thank You for keeping Your promises in such marvelous ways. We thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. We thank You for saints like Simeon and Anna who go before us in holiness to show us the way to You.
Intercession – Lord, we lift up to You young families. We lift up mothers who are experiencing sorrow in some way on account of their children. We lift up the elderly, Lord. We lift up those who have dedicated themselves completely to You as priests and religious men and women.
Petition – Jesus, please guide us through Your Holy Spirit, and please open our hearts to You that we may follow. Help us to increase and strengthen our prayers and fasts and our attention and devotion. Inspire us, Lord, to dedicate our entire life to You and to spread Your word to those around us.
Quotes from the Saints
“But let us see what these offerings mean. The turtle dove is the most vocal of birds, and the pigeon the gentlest. And such was the Savior made unto us; He was endowed with perfect meekness, and like the turtle dove entranced the world, filling His garden with His own melodies. There was killed then either a turtle dove or a pigeon, that by a figure He might be shown forth to us as about to suffer in the flesh for the life of the world.” - St. Cyril
“Not only did Angels and Prophets, the shepherds and his parents, bear witness to the birth of the Lord, but the old men and the righteous. As it is said, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and he was a just man, and one who feared God. For scarcely is righteousness preserved without fear, I mean not that fear which dreads the loss of worldly goods, (which perfect love casts out,) but that holy fear of the Lord which abides for ever, by which the righteous man, the more ardent his love to God, is so much the more careful not to offend Him.” - St. Ambrose
“Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.” - St. Gregory the Great
“To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God's temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.” - Theophyl
“If we marvel to hear that a woman was healed by touching the hem of a garment, what must we think of Simeon, who received an Infant in his arms, and rejoiced seeing that the little one he carried was He who had come to let loose the captive! Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of the body with the hope of future life, but He whom he held in his arms. Therefore it is said, And he blessed God, saying, Lord, now let you your servant depart.” - Origen
“Though these things are said of the Son, yet they have reference also to His mother, who takes each thing to herself, whether it be of danger or glory. He announces to her not only her prosperity, but her sorrows; for it follows, And a sword shall pierce through your own heart.” - St. Gregory of Nyssa