Scripture is clever. When Simeon stands in the temple waiting, he does so at the pleasure of his master. He has no agency, control, or personal expectations, yet he has a duty. As his very name suggests, he is to hear and obey the words of God until his death, trusting that God will fulfill his promise to achieve salvation, carrying those words in victory over the nations. He has no right to insist on an outcome and, at the same time, no right to lose hope. So what was Simeon’s job? What is a man with no agency supposed to do?
The Prophet David said: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but abides forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever.” (Psalm 125)
Moses said to the people: “Do not be afraid! Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today, you will never see again, forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Stand firm. Stand your ground. Hear and obey. Trust in the words of Scripture. Stay the course–each person in that state in which he was called.
It’s not that a person of duty does not have agency. On the contrary, such a person transfers agency to their allegiance. They still have work to do. The literary metaphor of Simeon standing firm at his post reflects such work, which defers all agency to the commandments of God. Standing firm in anticipation of a great war with no hope of victory and trusting in God for salvation to the point of death is hardly standing still. On the contrary, it’s frightening, challenging, and–as the story goes–honorable and breathtaking.
Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Luke 2:27-32. (Episode 465)
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