February 3, 2022

Homily on Saints Symeon the God-Receiver and Anna the Prophetess (Archimandrite George Kapsanis)

 By Archimandrite George Kapsanis,
Former Abbot of Gregoriou Monastery on Mount Athos

The feast of the Reception has a great meaning. It is a Messianic feast. The Messiah, whom the people of Israel were waiting for, begins to appear - while still an infant of course - at the forefront of history and in the heart of Judaism, which was the Temple of Solomon - where all the hopes of Israel were, where the eyes of the pious Israelites were fixed. From all over the universe, wherever the Jews were, their eyes were always turned to the Temple of Solomon.

There in this Temple the Lord appears embracing the Holy and Ever-Virgin Theotokos and is welcomed on behalf of the Prophets and all the Righteous of the Old Testament by the elder Symeon and Saint Anna the Prophetess. Reception divine and heavenly, but also humble and hidden from the eyes of the world! All the righteous of the Old Testament, who longed for the Messiah, through the hands of these righteous people, Symeon and Anna, receive the Lord of Glory.

Holy and righteous Symeon and Saint Anna had a great desire for God and Christ and wanted to secretly worship our Lord. If there were Monasteries, then they would go to Monasteries; but they did not exist.

The Jews did not cultivate the virtue of virginity, because the Virgin Mother had not incarnated, the Virgin Son had not shone forth from the Virgin Father, and therefore virginity did not spread among people, as the Church hymnology says somewhere.

And because there were no Monasteries, there was the Temple of Solomon, where the worship of God was performed daily on a twenty-four-hour basis and the sacrifices of the Old Testament Law were offered, but they were sacrifices that symbolized and announced the one and only sacrifice of the New Testament's Son of God.

There they lived in asceticism, worshiped, prayed, were sanctified and awaited the Lord of Glory. And how could the Lord not satisfy this desire and this divine love of these pious and righteous souls?

And oh the miracle! Where they were - at the sunset of the present life and before death - the Lord came and they received Him, and they embraced Him, and they worshiped Him, and they kissed Him. And then the righteous Symeon said the well-known: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace" (Luke 2:29). But he also concluded: "Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32). It's not just for the Israelites, it's for all the nations.

And so he showed that he was indeed a godly man, because he went beyond the exclusivity of the people of Israel, who could not understand the Messiah and Redeemer would be for the Gentiles, for the universe.

The neptic and mystic Symeon saw the universal mission of the Messiah. Politicians and activists could not see the breadth of God's plans; they saw it limited. Those who thought they were in the center of the world and of history, and therefore could better see the prospects of God, they did not see, but Symeon who was shut in the Temple and in prayer and in the heart could see.

He received the illumination of the Holy Spirit and saw that the mission of the Messiah is to be the universal Savior and Messiah, and not just of one people. This is how God works, through humble souls. He reveals His intentions, His greatness, and His glory.

That is why our Holy Orthodox Church - which is the only true Church - which is Christ extended for centuries, this Christ who was embraced and accepted by Saint Symeon the God-Receiver, secretly lives Christ and knows that Christ is the Savior of all people.

We ask today Saint Symeon the God-Receiver, who as you know has great boldness before God - and this is known from a revelation to Saint Nicholas - and Saint Anna the Prophetess, to intercede with the Lord, to bless us to be people of silence, people of watchfulness, people of prayer, people if possible of the eternal worship and praise of the Triune God and the manifested Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.