Saint Luke 2. 34-35 (33-40)
First Sunday after Christmas: 29 December Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The Name + of Jesus
Like Saint John Baptizer, Saint Simeon is a bridge or hinge between the Old and New, the Prophecy and its fulfillment. He was faithfully waiting for the consolation of Israel and He received the release—in the flesh.
The chief result of Adam’s sin is the corruption of human nature and the loss of the Edenic image and likeness of God. Being thrust from paradise, with all his future children also banished, man lost communion with the Holy Trinity—no more “face-to-face” walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon. Take heed lest ye fall!
The danger of Lutheranism, confessionalism, or for that matter, all “isms” is that ideology, knowledge, systematics, dogmatics, exegetical prowess, and historical mastery, taken as an “end” in themselves, can cloud over the true Image of God. The Lord is not a body of “knowledge” to be mastered but Love Incarnate to be received—a Body to be touched. Gnesio-Lutherans, i.e. “genuine” Evangelical-Catholic-Christianity, which is YES what we all desire to have by Grace through Faith, is still no antidote to sinning daily, nor to being sinners in our old-nature core.
Lutherans are as prone to hypocrisy and Phariseeism as anyone else. Just because you believe the truth does not mean that you’re instantly outside of time, and inside the Heavenly gates of splendor. The Church Militant grinds on, and more work and blood will be shed by martyrs such as you. And like Simeon, Anna, Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, you too still need the Law.
But, the Old Covenant has been kept and fulfilled in the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day package. The Christ is the end of the Law’s curse because He fulfilled all of those 10 Commands perfectly and then become “THE” Curse of your falleness on the Tree! But during your remaining sojourn, like the long and difficult life of Simeon, you will still have those 10 Commandments staring you in the face like an interrogation lamp and clear mirror—reflecting back the sweating and puffy face of a dying, lying, cheating, venal, cowardly, lazy murderer. You don’t love your neighbor as yourself: GUILTY as charged. As bad as your breaking of this second table (Commandments 4 through 10) is, the greatest Law which you transgress every day is the reason why you can’t keep the others: “Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me.” This, and the following two Commands about the Lord’s Name and His Worship, were reduced by Christ to: “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Nope, not this One either: Guilty as charged. This means that your sinner, your “et peccator” still requires the tutor and governor until the time appointed of the Father—your death. But as Paul teaches, not just the Law as killing mirror is necessary, but you also need the Law as guide to your new creation, your re-born and imputed righteous New Man and Woman. The most important death you underwent was your death to sin in Holy Baptism + where you were plunged into Christ’s watery and bloody burial at the font! There you went from being a child of wrath to a royal priest and co-heir to your Father, Abba—sons of God—true New Testament Israel in, with, and under, your Savior Christ THE ISRAEL IN THE FLESH!
Jesus’ bondage in ropes and thorns, in spikes and nails, in hillside tomb, in death’s dark domain, frees you from the eternal death and the eternal slavery to a Law you can’t keep—now.
THIS SALVATION - - -
It’s not spiritual it’s fleshly. It doesn’t happen by your work or actions, your discipline or even your “confession;” it happens by the Christ coming to you and giving Himself to you…as He gave Himself to Simeon.
Simeon blessed the Holy Family, which means He praised God for His acts of Mercy showed to Joseph and the Virgin. Simeon prophesied to the Lord’s dear Mother the eternal truths that all the prophets foresaw, and that the Apostles and Evangelists preached and wrote, and which you live and experience: Repent and Believe! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Simeon was given that!
The Christ-Babe, the God/Babe, soon to grow in wisdom and strength into the God/Man, was/is destined for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against. This is Law and Gospel…sin and Grace, condemnation and binding followed by forgiveness and loosing for all who believe because the Christ comes to them. Jesus wasn’t betrayed, tortured, and cruelly murdered for being wise, and kind in His healings. He wasn’t even crucified for being an enemy to the Sanhedrin’s unbelief and Caesar’s hegemony. Jesus was slain to atone for the sin of the world—The Paschal Lamb slain as the true Passover so that the destroyer might pass you by. He was slain, as His enemies maintained, for blasphemy—claiming to be GOD, I AM. Except it wasn’t blasphemy but the Truth! This is the sign that continues to be spoken against to this very day and moment. The exclusivity of His revelation…“neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” [Acts 4.12] “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” [Jn. 14.6] The scandal is His claim not of truth, but of BEING THE TRUTH ENFLESHED. His scandal is the Flesh and Blood Itself of Immanuel—the cross, the Crucifix, which still causes nothing but rage and hatred and satanic attack! “Under the elements of the world” as the Apostle instructs.
Saint Simeon speaking by the Holy Spirit, “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” [1 Cor. 12.3b] also delivers a truth about Christ’s Church when he tells the Virgin: “yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” To be sure, that was a reference to Our Mother’s singular anguish at the foot of the Cross, but it was also more—a prediction of how so many heretics, heterodox, and protestant minimalists, would treat the legacy of Saint Mary of Nazareth—the “type” of the New Testament Church herself. One who attacks, besmirches, or covers Mary up, only to let her “pop out of a box” on Christmas Eve just so the Creche looks correct, is no Christian, for to dishonor or marginalize the Mother of God is to do the same to the God/Man Himself.
And finally, talking about “boxes” leads back to Simeon and just Who He had in his hands and to Whom He was singing when He chanted the Nunc Dimittis. So many people not understanding the Christ of Holy Scripture, The Christ of the Historic Liturgy—i.e. “His Words for us and His Service for us,” like to say... “well, you know, you can’t put God in a box.” No, you can’t and they can’t true enough; but the Lord can choose, as He does, to work only through Word and Sacrament. The Second Person of the Trinity can chose to take on flesh and blood from the Virgin and become Man; the God/Man for you. He can be born from a Virgin, suck milk from her breasts, and be held in the hands of an old Hebrew by the name of Simeon; and held on the tongues of each of you this morning.
It is meet, right, and salutary that you will sing Simeon’s Canticle at the very conclusion of the Holy Mass. For you with Simeon, have been permitted to see God, look upon God, and to hold God.
Lord, lettest Thou Thy servants depart in Peace.
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost