On 2 February 2014, the Orthodox faithful celebrate the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. The feast reminds the time Infant Jesus was brought to the Temple of Jerusalem when 40 days old, as the Jewish tradition stipulated. His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel explained the significance of the feast after the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the chapel of Saint Gregory the Enlightener of the Patriarchal Residence.
Righteous Simeon suddenly shows us that waiting is fruitful and God’s promise fulfilled
The Patriarch of Romania underlined in his words the fact that the Temple of Jerusalem as intense localised presence of the divinity in the world prefigured Christ: “The feast of the Presentation is a feast in which one can see how waiting for Messiah, for Christ, throughout the centuries as a promise of God is fulfilled. This fulfilment is confessed as such by Righteous Simeon. The Gospel according to Saint Evangelist Luke, chapter 2, lines 22-40 shows us how Infant Jesus was taken to the Temple of Jerusalem when 40 days old, according to the Jewish tradition, namely the firstborn male had to be presented in the Temple and designated to the Lord offering as sacrifice a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. The whole period of the Old Testament till the coming of the Saviour was a time of waiting, but not a passive waiting, but an active one, through fasting, prayer and enduring all the hardships of life and of the persecution of the foreign peoples keeping the right faith in the One God, Creator of the heaven and earth. Thus, all people were waiting for Messiah to come, but especially the righteous of the people who were fulfilling the will of God in their life. Righteous Simeon also shows us that waiting is fruitful and God’s promise fulfilled. It was the time when what he had spiritually seen, namely the coming of Messiah predicted by the people of the Old Testament inspired by the Holy Spirit was coming true so that he could touch what he had spiritually seen, and see with his physical eyes the God Incarnated. This great blessing to meet God the Infant and carry Him in his arms in the Temple has a special significance. He came to the Temple, was brought to the Temple and carried in Simeon’s arms the one who is the Temple not made by human hand, namely Christ. That is because the Temple of Jerusalem as presence intensely localised of the divinity in the world prefigured Christ about whom Saint Paul the Apostle said that in Him “all the full divinity lived”.
This presence of God coming from His dwelling in Heaven to the earth is the mystery of the Temple and then the mystery of the Church
The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also explained that the Righteous Simeon and Prophetess Anna represent the entire righteous people waiting and praying: “This great blessing to carry Infant Jesus, Messiah in the Temple is a prefiguration of the Mystery of the Church because the Church was prefigured by the Temple of Jerusalem. This is why when an Orthodox church is consecrated the prayer of king Solomon is read that was also read when the Temple of Jerusalem was consecrated, namely the request “that Your eyes be open day and night, Your ears listen to those who will call Your name”. This presence of God coming from His dwelling place in Heaven to the earth is the mystery of the Temple and then the Mystery of the Church. Righteous Simeon and Prophetess Anna represent the entire righteous people waiting, praying, and fasting, as well as the people who see the promise of God come true, or feel the presence of God in their life, so that they say this thanksgiving prayer. Set free now… is a prayer included in the Vesper service because the Vesper in its entirety represents, in the Orthodox rite, all the period of waiting for Messiah to come. It is a time of waiting for hope and for strengthening one’s faith. The fact that the same prayer of Righteous Simeon is also said at the end of the thanksgiving prayers after the Holy Communion shows that we too are bearers of God when we have the Body and Blood of the Lord”.
The answer comes when God wishes and as He wishes
The Patriarch of Romania has also shown: “The Church venerates Righteous Simeon and Prophetess Anna in quite a special way because the next day after the feast of the Presentation of the Lord they are both celebrated and called “receivers of God”. Thus, Righteous Simeon is a receiver of God, is the one who carried God the Man in his arms, God the Child, Infant Jesus. Righteous Simeon is a great teacher too together with Prophetess Anna for the Christian life, namely the prayer said constantly with patience and hope does not remain without answer. Very often we want the answer right away, when we want it, but the answer comes when God wants and as he wants. Thus, we learn from Righteous Simeon and from Prophetess Anna the devotion, prayer, fasting, patience and hope. In 2014, the year dedicated to the Holy Confession and Holy Communion, this feast has a special significance for us, that is to say we must actively wait through prayer, good deeds, strengthening the, so that Christ, our Lord, should live in our souls and in our lives. He says: “Look, I stay at the door and knock. If anybody hears my voice and opens I shall go in together with my Father and have dinner with Him”, namely we shall all live together. This mystery of Christ in us is the mystery of Christianity, as Saint Paul the Apostle tells us when he says “the mystery of faith is Christ present in you, the One in you”. We see in righteous Simeon the prototype of the righteous who accomplished the will of God and are not afraid of death, but consider it a passage from life to eternal rest in the love and light of God. This attitude of Righteous Simeon in regard to death is very similar to that of all the Christian saints who would live later on, and not only of the holy monks living in the desert or in monasteries, but also of the ordinary saints, of the ordinary country people. Just like righteous Simeon, to the end of their lives they intensify their prayers, confession, often Holy Communion, reconcile with everybody, and prepare their clothes for burial in the same spirit of thanksgiving to God for life and say: “Now set free your slave, master, according to your word in peace”. Thus, this spiritual preparation for a final complete encounter with God is the Christian sense, the Bible sense of death as Passover, as passage to the eternal life.”
To end with, His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel awarded the Honorific Distinction of the “Patriarchal Cross” to Rt Rev Archimandrite Timotei Aioanei, great ecclesiarch of the Patriarchal Cathedral of Bucharest. The award document was read by Archimandrite Veniamin Goreanu, church administrative counsellor to the Archdiocese of Bucharest.