And the messenger of the covenant whom you desire.
Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming?
Twice a month I meet with Knights of Columbus, as chaplain and faithful friar. We begin every meeting with the rosary, and often with the Joyful Mysteries. Coming to the fourth joyful mystery, I look at this group and at myself and think of Simeon. Any one of us might be the old man welcoming the Child of Mary and Joseph to the Temple.
Our similarities are greater than our differences. He was a Jew, we are Catholic. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would see the Messiah; we have not received that particular promise. As to differences, that's about it.
We're mostly old, like Simeon. He saw the end of an era in Salvation History; we are watching and suffering astonishing technological changes that will not usher in the Kingdom of God but nonetheless mark a new, unpredictable, unprecedented era in human history. Simeon's faith gave him confidence about a future whose unfolding he would not see; neither will these old men witness the world their grandchildren will inhabit. But we share the confidence and joy of Simeon. Like retirees who plant saplings, we can see the fruition of these trees with our mind's eye.
Simeon and Anna represent the pious faithful of Jerusalem. They were the unpretentious, disenfranchised poor whose only hope was the promise of God. There were no social programs to promote the general welfare; no bleeding heart liberals or compassionate conservatives to direct taxpayer money in their direction. Jerusalem was a trickle-down economy like our own, not much arrived at the bottom. Most citizens of the Roman Empire were slaves; an institution that thrives in a society split between exorbitant wealth and staggering poverty. They are the people who welcome the Messiah.
They are also the people who remember the promise of Christmas forty days after December 25. Their need is still acute; their longing still intense, and their hope remains as fresh as Easter.