|Venerated in||Oriental Orthodox Church|
Eastern Orthodox Church
|Major shrine||Church of St. Simeon in Zadar, Croatia|
|Attributes||Depicted as an elderly man, sometimes vested as a Jewish priest, often holding the infant Jesus|
Simeon (Greek: Συμεών) at the Temple is the "just and devout" man of Jerusalem who, according to Luke 2:25–35, met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as they entered the Temple to fulfill the requirements of the Law of Moses on the 40th day from Jesus' birth, i. e. the presentation of Jesus at the Temple.
According to the Biblical account, the Holy Spirit visited Simeon and revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ of God. Upon taking Jesus into his arms, he uttered a prayer which is still used liturgically as the Latin Nunc dimittis in the Catholic Church and other Christian churches, and gave a prophecy alluding to the Crucifixion of Jesus.
Some Christian traditions commemorate this meeting on 2 February as the feast of Candlemas, or, more formally, the Presentation of the Lord, the Meeting of the Lord, or the Purification of the Virgin (Mary). His prophecy is involved in the devotion to Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows. Simeon is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, Anglican Communion, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy. His feast is 3 February in the revised Roman Martyrology of the Catholic Church and on 16 February in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Main article: Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
The sole mention in the New Testament of Simeon is thus:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." - Luke 2:25–35, RSV-2CE
Some writers have identified this Simeon with Shimon ben Hillel, although Hillel was not a priest. James F. Driscoll, writing in the Catholic Encyclopedia dismisses this as "untrustworthy legends".
The Bible is silent about Simeon's age at this point, though he is generally assumed (for example by Howard Marshall, who refers to him as an "old man") to have been elderly.
Orthodox tradition says that he was one of the seventy scholars who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into the Septuagint, and that he translated Isaiah 7:14 as saying "a young woman" would conceive rather than "a virgin" due to his disbelief. Because of this, a divine being told him he would live to see the fulfillment of this prophecy. When he was around 360 years old, he saw Jesus, uttered the benediction and died.
Sometime between AD 565 and 578, a body believed to be that of Simeon was translated from Syria or Jerusalem to Constantinople. Sometime around the Siege of Constantinople (1203) the relics were seized and shipped to Venice; however, a storm forced the ship to put in to the port of Zadar on the Dalmatian coast. The relics were first placed in the Velika Gospa (Church of the Virgin) and then later translated to the Church of St. Stephen, which became known as the Sanctuary of St. Simeon the Godbearer. Simeon is one of the four patron saints of Zadar; his feast day is celebrated on 8 October. In October 2010, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar conveyed a small silver reliquary containing some of Simeon's relics to Archbishop Theofylactus of Jordan, representing Theophilos III, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, for the monastery of St. Simeon the Godbearer in Jerusalem.
The events in the life of Simeon the Righteous are observed on both 2 and 3 February. The observances of the first day memorialize the act of Mary undergoing an act of ritual purification and presenting Jesus, her child, to the Temple, a feast known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Because this day focuses on Jesus and Mary, the observation of 3 February is specific to Simeon, who was allowed to die after seeing the Christ born of a virgin.
Under Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for three and 30 days "in the blood of her purification", for a total of 40 days. The Christian Feast of the Purification therefore corresponds to the day on which Mary, according to Jewish law (see Leviticus 12:2–8), should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification. The Gospel of Luke 2:22–39 relates that Mary was purified according to the religious law, after which Jesus was presented in the Temple in Jerusalem. This explains the formal names of the feast.
In the liturgy of Evening Prayer in the Anglican Communion, Anglicans recite the Nunc dimittis or sing it in Evensong in the canticle the Song of Simeon, traditionally every evening. The liturgical hour of Compline of the Catholic Church and of Vespers in Orthodoxy also use it. Many notable composers have set the Nunc dimittis to music, e. g. the (All-Night Vigil of Rachmaninoff).
The feast of 2 February is often known as "Candlemas" because, in honor of the ritual purification of the Virgin Mary, candles of beeswax, which will be used for the whole liturgical year, are brought into a church and blessed. In the Catholic Church the Presentation is commemorated as the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Church of England the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a principal feast. In the Eastern Orthodox Church it is one of the twelve Great Feasts.
This feast day has a number of different names:
Simeon the Righteous is commemorated in his own right on 3 February. In the Anglican Communion Simeon is not venerated with a festal observance, and 3 February is designated to recognize Blaise, Bishop of Sebastea, or in modern calendars, Saint Anskar (801–865), a missionary, Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, and the first Bishop in Sweden in 864.
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Simeon is commemorated with Anna the Prophetess on 3 February on the Feast of the Holy and Righteous Simeon the God-Receiver and Anna the Prophetess.
While both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches agree on the date of Candlemas as the 40th day after Christmas, in accordance with the Mosaic Law, the difference in the marking of Christmas on 25 December resulted from a theological dispute on the replacement by the Gregorian Calendar of the older Julian Calendar. 25 December currently occurs 13 days later on the Julian Calendar than on the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian revision of the calendar occurred in 1582, well after the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western Christian churches in 1054. Consequently, many Orthodox Christians celebrate the feast of Saint Simeon on 16 February. As mentioned above, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Simeon on the day after the Feast of the Presentation, i. e. 3 February. However, for those churches that use the Julian Calendar, 3 February is on 16 February of the modern Gregorian Calendar.
The Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates the Nativity of Christ on 6 January, and so its celebration of the Presentation, which its denominates The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple, is on 14 February.