The congregation is seated. An old man walks slowly, painfully, up the aisle toward the altar. He pauses frequently to search the faces of the congregation. When he reaches the front, he turns to the altar and begins:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One!”

He turns and searches the faces again and then sits down

Today. Perhaps, today. Let the morning begin!

Simeon is here with old expectations in place.

See, my feet have grooved the stone. My hands oil the wood.

A hundred thousand faces have been searched and passed over.

No scholar or soldier, no prince, priest or thief matches the name.

I hold the word “messiah” like an empty victory wreath,

looking for the runner with salvation in his stride.

Zealots crowd the streets, claim the title, dream of crowns.

The market place mutters under its breath,

naming one son and then another for the throne.

But here, here in the shadow of the Holy,

I wait for the King.

He winces, leans over, then straightens.


The shadow of the Holy. My shadow of death.

I cling with fierce hands to the edge of my life.

You have promised, Holy One!

Do not forget me or deny the one prayer I possess.

With these eyes I will see your salvation.

With these hands I will bless the one who comes in your name.


Simeon. The voice of the tempter mixes with your prayer.

I see you! You in the shadows! You whisper my doubts.


“Why you among many?

There have been others who hungered for sight of the Word.

Does your faith surpass Isaiah’s light?

Did Jeremiah deserve his lonely watch in the night?

Why you? Why now?

Amos died thirsty, calling for the waters of justice.

Hosea’s heart was broken as Israel died in Assyria’s arms.”


He bends over suddenly. then slowly straightens.


Bless the pain.

Sharp truth…purges doubt.

One memory hangs behind each breath.

Crucifying weight.

One son the Lord gave me.

One son they took away.


He stands.

With these hands in this place

I once offered him up to the glory of God.

With these hands. these sad hands,

I lifted him down from a torturer’s tree.


He dreamed of Jerusalem’s freedom.

But his vision turned violent, and broke his life on its edge.


I nail you again to your promise.

You emptied my heart, stripped clean my hands.

You let them take my son. Send now your own!


Remember your promise!

No high priest will say it, no teacher, no scribe.

I, Simeon, will see and name the holy one of God.

I will see! You have promised.

I will touch your salvation, and cradle your name.


He sits, exhausted.

Sit down, you old fool.

God is not deaf.

A whisper will serve, even silence will do.

Death, seal my eyes open,

strengthen these hands that reach for God’s son!

I will see our salvation

I will hold freedom in these hands.


He turns his face, closes his eyes. A young gift with a small child enters with an older man behind her. The man speaks to her softly and then moves ahead of her, coming toward the altar.

Simeon opens his eyes, sees him, looks away, then looks again.


Almost…yet…no.  I hear the name stir but it won’t come to birth.


Simeon rises as Joseph approaches. Simeon goes to him and touches his face.


A good man, with faith carved in your face, trust planed in your eyes.

Rooted in the House of Jesse, yet lacking…

Why have you come?

What are you seeking? An answer? A sign?


Joseph:” We have a son. The law requires a first-born…”


Simeon looks down the aisle.

Where? Let me see!


Mary comes toward the altar carrying Jesus. Simeon goes to meet her and lifts the child from her arms.


How could salvation come in such a small way?

Yes. I remember. A little child shall lead them

 He turns toward the altar, holding up the baby.


“Lord, let now your servant depart in peace, according to your Word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all people,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”


He turns toward the people.

Israel, O Israel, the Holy One places Emmanuel in our hands.

He will lift the broken-hearted, and strengthen the weak.

But those of peace less power will stumble and fall against his name.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, has come.


He hands the baby back to Mary.

Bind him close. Love him strong.

You will not keep him long.

The sword that pierces him first passes through you.


He touches Joseph’s shoulder.

Teach him well.

What he learns from you, others will name when they pray.


He gestures for them to leave and sits again.





Simeon bows his head and leans back in his seat, whispering:



Heather Murray Elkins, copyrightÓ August 1980. All rights reserved.