Simeon, a man whose only credentials were his piety, was ready to face death knowing God had provided a savior. The Holy Spirit rested on him, and he was gifted with incredible discernment to find such comfort and relief in the fear-inducing challenges of life, and death’s approach.
Simeon, although comforted, does not paint a rosy picture of the path of the Christian faith; Mary, with her child in her arms, hears the words no parent ever wants to hear: ”Your child is the answer to so many questions, and because of that he will know great heights and awful depths.“ Nothing might trigger a defensive, protective reaction more than such a prediction. “A sword will pierce your own soul, too,” Simeon continues to inform Mary, with whom we are called to stand as modern bearers of Christ in this world. Mary learns early on that the path of Christ is not a safe or an easy path, but one of ”falling and rising.”
What we hold in our arms with Mary standing in the temple is more than salvation, but a holy light by which to discern our path--a path that will lead us with Christ past the temptations of security and the distraction of fear, which often rule this world, but were ultimately defeated by Christ. Like Simeon, whose only hope was not his defense but the existence of a savior, we also are called to disarm ourselves, both literally and metaphorically.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Commitment Pledge is a song not unlike Simeon’s recognizing the truth of Christ and the relief we have in Jesus as our savior:
“In loyalty to the teaching, and person of Jesus Christ, my conscience commits me to the way of redemptive love: to pray, study, and work for peace, and to renounce, as far as possible, participation in war, militarism, and all other forms of violence. In fellowship with others, I will work to discover and create alternatives to violence and to build a culture of peace. I urge the Episcopal Church in accordance with our baptismal vows “to renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God”, and to wage peace across all boundaries, calling upon people everywhere to repent, to forgive, and to love.”
This Lent, ask yourself what path of peace is the light of Christ offering you in the face of fear? Is your salvation from fear your own defense, or is Christ calling you with a promise into the dangerous and freeing work of the faith? What song are you committing to this Lent?
Image Caption: Photo by Nils Chittenden