Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Simeon's song of praise

Harmenszoon van Rijn Rembrandt (1606-1669)
Simeon's song of praise (Nunc dimittis)
Oil on panel
60,9 x 47,9 cm
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague

The theme of the painting is from Luke 2: 22 - 38 :the story of Simeon when Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple to be presented to God 

Simeon, a devout old man  recognised the child as the Saviour and praised him to God

Simeon describes Christ as "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (v.32)

In the painting the child is the source of Light held by Simeon

Outwith the child, everything else is shrouded in darkness

Christ illumines the mysteries of man

“29 Now, Master, you may let your servant go
in peace, according to your word, 
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 
31 which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, 
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and glory for your people Israel.”

"Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace - now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word" (Lk 2: 29). 

Simeon`s prayer is also the prayer of man on the threshold of death after a lifetime of hope and prayer

Simeon had experienced Advent for most of his life

His is a prayer of faith the same as  "In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum"

And thus the prayer Nunc Dimittis  is the traditional Gospel Canticle of Compline, the Prayer of the Night

But Simeon also addresses Mary, the other figure of Light in the picture
"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" 
In obedience to  the Mosaic Mary is purified. And in her arms, and in obedience to the Mosaic Law Christ is redeemed

By Mary,the Word of the New Covenant is revealed to the people and temple of the Old Covenant and to the Gentiles

And in the process her soul will be pierced

Despite this warning and prophecy she continued on, in the same manner and spirit she  said yes  at the time of the Annunciation