Daily Reading for February 2 • The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple
The Nunc Dimittis is ultimately a song about realizing personal inner tranquility and restfulness—as we see a spiritual calm brought to Simeon’s life. This is why it has been traditionally used during Evening Prayer services, as the day closes for the night’s rest. During the season of Lent our church in Cairo has a midweek contemplative service of Compline. For those who come, it provides a spiritual calm in the midst of the noise, chaos, dirt, and endless intensity of a city of twenty-two million people. After this occasion, or rather due to it, an internal peacefulness filled Simeon as never before, thereby becoming for us a marvelous lesson in peaceful living.
Simeon sings, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation.” I love the way the writer Eugene Peterson paraphrases this line in The Message: “God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation.” The entire song is sung with the language of freedom. In the original Greek text, it has the connotation of releasing a slave. Simeon is describing his own experience as one of being released. In the song the word “now” is of utmost importance, emphasizing that an experience of profound liberation happened to him at that moment in time upon seeing the Christ Child.
Simeon’s song is his way of describing how he was finally “released” truly to live. Many biblical commentators have interpreted his song as meaning he was at last free to die, presumably due to his old age after all those years of waiting to see the Messiah. However, the heart of Simeon’s verse is that he was released into freedom, enabled to experience the gift of life anew. Essentially, Simeon now understood what it meant to be at peace with himself, because of what he “saw” in the temple.
From Songs in Waiting: Spiritual Reflections on the Middle Eastern Songs Surrounding Christ’s Birth by Paul-Gordon Chandler. Copyright © 2009. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY. www.churchpublishing.org