Wednesday February 17, 2021 / February 4, 2021
37th Week after Pentecost. Tone three.
Fast. Fish Allowed
Venerable Isidore of Pelusium, monk (436-440). St. George, prince of Vladimir (1238). Venerable Cyril, abbot, wonderworker of New Lake (Novgorod) (1532). New Hieromartyr Methodius bishop of Petropavlovsk (1921). New Hieromartyrs Eustaphius, John, Alexander, Sergius, John, Theodora, Aleksander, Nicholas, Alexis, Nicholas, Alexis, Alexander, Arcadius, Boris, Michael, Nicholas, Alexis, Andrew, Demetrius, John, Peter priests, Martyr Seraphim, Virgin-martyrs Rafaila, Anna, Catherine, and Martyrs John, Basil, Demetrius, Theodore, and Demetrius (1938). Venerable Abraham and St. Coprius, monks, of Pechenga (Vologda) (15th c.). Martyrs Jadorus and Isidore who suffered under Decius (249-251). Hieromartyr Abramius, bishop of Arbela in Assyria (ca. 344-347). Venerable Nicholas the Confessor, abbot of the Studion (868)
Meeting of the Lord
Forty days after Christ was born He was presented to God in the Jerusalem Temple according to the Mosaic Law. At this time as well His mother Mary underwent the ritual purification and offered the sacrifices as prescribed in the Law. Thus, forty days after Christmas, on the second of February, the Church celebrates the feast of the presentation called the Meeting (or Presentation or Reception) of the Lord.
The meeting of Christ by the elder Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Lk 2.22–36) is the main event of the feast of Christ’s presentation in the Temple. It was “revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk 2.26) and, inspired by the same Spirit, he came to the Temple where he met the new-born Messiah, took Him in his arms and said the words which are now chanted each evening at the end of the Orthodox Vespers service:
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Thy people Israel (Lk 2.29–32).
At this time as well Simeon predicted that Jesus would be the “sign which is spoken against” and that He would cause “the fall and the rising of many in Israel.” He also foretold Mary’s sufferings because of her son (Luke 22.34–35). Anna also was present and, giving thanks to God “she spoke of Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk 2.38).
In the service of the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, the fact emphasized is that Christ, the Son and Word of God through Whom the world was created, now is held as an infant in Simeon’s hands; this same Son of God, the Giver of the Law, now Himself fulfills the Law, carried in arms as a human child.
Receive him, O Simeon, whom Moses on Mount Sinai beheld in the darkness as the Giver of the Law. Receive him as a babe now obeying the Law. For he it is of whom the Law and the Prophets have spoken, incarnate for our sake and saving mankind. Come let us adore him!
Let the door of heaven open today, for the Eternal Word of the Father, without giving up his divinity, has been incarnate of the Virgin in time. And as a babe of forty days he is voluntarily brought by his mother to the Temple, according to the Law. And the elder Simeon takes him in his arms and cries out: Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, O Lord, who has come to save the human race—glory to Thee! (Vespers Verses of the Feast).
The Vespers and Matins of the feast of the Meeting of the Lord are filled with hymns on this theme. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated with the lines from the canticle of Mary forming the prokeimenon and the words of Simeon being the verses for the Alleluia. The gospel readings tell of the meeting, while the Old Testament readings at Vespers refer to the Law of the purification in Leviticus, the vision of Isaiah in the Temple of the Thrice-Holy Lord, and the gift of faith to the Egyptians prophesied by Isaiah when the light of the Lord shall be a “revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2.32).
The celebration of the Meeting of the Lord in the church is not merely a historical commemoration. Inspired by the same Holy Spirit as Simeon, and led by the same Spirit into the Church of the Messiah, the members of the Church also can claim their own “meeting” with the Lord, and so also can witness that they too can “depart in peace” since their eyes have seen the salvation of God in the person of his Christ.
Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, Full of Grace! From you shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those who sat in darkness! Rejoice and be glad, O righteous elder; you accepted in your arms the Redeemer of our souls who grants us the resurrection (Troparion).
By Thy nativity, Thou didst sanctify the Virgin’s womb. And didst bless Simeon’s hands, O Christ our God. Now Thou hast come and saved us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians, O only Lover of man (Kontakion).
HYMN OF PRAISE
A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING
Render sacrifice to God, a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
O you who are wealthy by God’s mercy!
He who is wealthy, with what he has, let him barter.
Let each with his own gifts the Kingdom acquire.
Whoever is overflowing with money, let him offer money;
Whoever has a bounty of wheat, let him distribute wheat;
Whoever is given wisdom, let him teach others;
Whoever’s hands are strong, let him perform service;
Whoever knows a trade, let him honorably uphold it.
Let him conscientiously consider himself as a debtor to God.
Let him who knows how to sing, praise God.
Only he is small who does not know God.
With whatever one receives, with that let him serve;
With mercy toward men, let him repay God.
Not all are the same, nor do all possess the same,
But a pure heart, everyone can offer to God.
O purity of heart, a sacrifice worthy of wonder,
For salvation, you are the crucial virtue,
And on your sacrificial altar, your incense ascends,
Arriving more swiftly than anything before the Lord.
Impose upon yourself some form of penance [Epitimija] for the sins of others. If you have judged or punished someone, impose upon yourself a form of penance. You should also suffer voluntarily for the sins of sinners. This is pleasing to God. This mystery was known by the saints, who condemned themselves for the sins of others. Even non-Christian peoples perceived this mystery. There exists this custom in China: When an executioner beheads a criminal who is sentenced to death, he then approaches the judge and informs him that the verdict was carried out. The judge reimburses him with a silver coin because he has executed a criminal, and then he orders that he be given forty lashes for having killed a man. Christian saints profoundly understood the mystery of sin and human injustice. For the saints, every human sin has a history as long as the distance from Adam to us.
Contemplate the Lord Jesus as Joy:
1. As Joy that refreshes the whole spirit of man;
2. As Joy that enlivens and strengthens in man all power toward good;
3. As Joy from His name, Joy from His words, Joy from His works and Joy from His Spirit.
on the good fortune of Zacchaeus of little stature
“Today is salvation come to thy house” (Luke 19:9).
Thus spoke He Whose word is life, joy and the restoration of the righteous. Just as the bleak forest clothes itself in greenery and flowers through the breath of spring, so every man–regardless of how arid and darkened he is by sin–becomes fresh and youthful from the nearness of Christ. For the nearness of Christ is like the closeness of some life-giving and fragrant balsam that restores health, increases life, and gives fragrance to the soul, to the thoughts and to the words of man. In other words, distance from Christ means decay and death, and nearness to Him means salvation and life.
Today is salvation come to thy house, said the Lord upon entering the house of Zacchaeus the sinner. Christ was the salvation that came, and Zacchaeus was the house that He entered. Brethren, each one of us is a house in which sin dwells as long as Christ is distant, and to which salvation comes when Christ approaches. Nevertheless, will Christ approach my house and your house? That depends on us. Behold, He did not arbitrarily enter the house of the sinner Zacchaeus, rather He entered as a most desired guest. Zacchaeus of little stature climbed into a tree in order to see the Lord Jesus with his own eyes. Zacchaeus therefore sought him; Zacchaeus desired Him. We must also seek Him in order to find Him, and desire Him in order that He would draw nearer to us. Then, with our spirit, we must climb high in order to encounter His glance. Then He will visit our house as He visited the house of Zacchaeus, and with Him salvation will come.
Draw near to us, O Lord; draw near and bring to us Thine eternal salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.