Reflection - December 31, 2017

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word,
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

I don’t remember which movie it was from (probably one I shouldn’t have been watching as a child), but I do remember a satirical scene where Simeon, promised by God that he would not die until he had seen the messiah, stood at the entrance of the temple repeating something like the words above to every child presented to God. Over and over, “my eyes have seen your salvation; my eyes have seen your salvation,” to every child! Simeon is cast as a crazy old man and his canticle (the words above) as misguided and repetitive lunacy. 


One of the promises we make as priests, which sisters, nuns, monks, friars, brothers, and deacons also make, is to pray. This has a very specific method of prayer, the prayer of the church, also called the Liturgy of Hours, Divine Office, or Breviary. It is a four week cycle of prayers which include spiritual readings, scripture readings, antiphons, psalms, canticles, intercessions, songs, and other prayers. At a minimum (there could be more) most of us pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, and the Office of Readings. 

Not because it’s the shortest of those (although it is), my favorite has always been Night Prayer. I have especially loved chanting it, but even now, when I mostly recite it in silence, the chant tones are in my head. As the day ends and I’m ready to go to sleep, it includes an examination of conscience and indicates within it the hint of the end of our lives on earth, death. It is solemn and beautiful. Every night I pray the words of Simeon above. Over and over, now thousands of times for thousands of days. 

Instead of being the words of a satirical lunatic, the repetition of these words are a precious sign to me of hope. Near the end of his life, Simeon sees the promised messiah near the beginning of his. Death and new life joined in the fulfillment of God’s promise to Simeon. The pattern of the Pascal Mystery plays out in today’s gospel, an end that leads to a new beginning. 

In this Christmas Season, many of us have experienced the death of loved ones this past year and, perhaps, the birth of new loved ones in our own families. We see death and new life around us. Each day, this cycle of the sun setting and us going to sleep and, God willing, waking the next morning shows us, again, death and new life. Ultimately, it is Christ’s death and resurrection that give us hope. In Jesus, joyfully welcomed into our hearts and homes as a baby this Christmas, we have already seen the light of our salvation. Every year, every day, over and over, we experience this hope. Now, we may go in peace.