A Most Basic Skill

For quite some time, now my heart has been stolen by one of the iconic images of the faith.  I am completely smitten by this picture every time I see it almost to the point of not being able to rest my eyes on anything else whenever it is present.   It’s not what you would think.  It’s not an elegant picture of the Blessed Mother or a realistic image of Jesus on the cross or a powerful portrait of St. Michael.  Very simply, the image that I can’t take my eyes off of is Simeon!  You know, the man who was informed at by the Spirit Himself, that he would not die until he had laid his eyes on the Savior of the world.  Some Eastern traditions suggest that Simeon was a Priest and over 200 years old when he finally encountered the Divine Infant.

I could spend hours just examining his face at the moment he touches the infant. I don’t know what it is, maybe just a sense of my own mortality.  No matter whose hand created the image that face is what captivates me.  Some artists paint joy, some relief, some ecstasy, some calm, some peace.

One thing is the same in all of the images I have ever seen, no one gives him anger, frustration, disappointment, or exhaustion.  Certainly the emotion he has at that moment is the pinnacle of his whole life and has come after a long period of not knowing what will be next and when it will be.  How long did he have to wait?

His reply is on the mystical side and has become a standard prayer used during Compline (evening prayer) : “Lord, now let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel” (Lk 2: 29-30).

So this obscure old man becomes “the one” to publically declare to the world who this infant really is.  It’s an interesting picture, the oldest holding the youngest and between them the circumstance that will change forever the relationship of man with God as well as the world. No one is exempt from the fulfillment, neither old nor young.

In Simeon’s face you see the ultimate confidence that his waiting has not been a waste, God is real and His promise is reality.  It makes no difference if he lives or dies because God is so filled with truth.  His waiting has been for the total benefit of God’s purpose.  It was the only thing God asked him to do. Waiting is a basic skill that all other aspects of faith are built on.

Sometimes we get caught up in thinking about how to get to the place where we are “good enough” for the blessings of God.  How do we get there faster? On the contrary,   Moses waited, Noah waited, The People in the Desert waited, Job waited, Abraham and Sarah waited, Zechariah and Elizabeth waited, Mary waited, Joseph waited, Anna waited and the disciples waited.    In each of those waitings God asked for a different thing:

Perseverance, courage, rejection of fear, trust, silence, journey, vision, putting out into the deep, witness. Obviously waiting is a skill that God requires.  In the waiting is the healing and the teaching.  In each case of waiting in the Bible the conclusion of the waiting is filled with joy.  So I think about Simeon and ask him to teach me about waiting. Clearly it’s one of the more valuable spiritual tools.

Copyright 2015, Kathryn M. Cunningham

Image: Simeon’s Moment by Ron DiCianni

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn M. Cunningham

Kathryn holds a Master’s in Education from Saint Xavier University. Most recently she completed Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from The Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. This recent degree was part of a “retirement project” after teaching for 35 years. She has also worked as a spiritual director, music minister,council member and prayer team warrior. Kathryn has a deep interest in catechesis for the people in the pews. As a “sort of” convert she finds the wisdom of the Church a source for encouragement, joy and survival in a world not sure of anything. Her writing has appeared in diocesan publications and on-line sites, most recently for Zenit. To learn more about Kathryn check out her thinking at: www.atravelersview.org">ATravelersView.org.

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