The Holy Simeon

Simeon is the most conspicuous figure in the icons. The child Jesus is certainly in the middle, being the very reason for what is depicted. And without his parents being faithful to the Torah, Simeon would have waited in vain in the temple. Nevertheless, Simeon dominates the scene, even though we do not know very much about him. We know only that he was old and had long been waiting for the moment the icon illustrates. When he finally stands there with the child in his arms, he is ready to pass away, saying: 

Lord, now you let 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 peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.

Foto: Håkan Bengtsson

The Gospel says that Simeon was "righteous and devout". Deeply rooted in ancient sacred texts and in the Jewish tradition, with the child in his arms he is now looking forward to a new beginning for the world. We may say that he stands on the threshold between what Christians usually call the Old and the New Testament. Hence, he symbolizes the profound link between the Jewish people and what would eventually become the worldwide church of all nations. As a prophetic figure, he appears with a halo and the inscription “The Holy Simeon”.

What particularly draws our attention to Simeon is the Jewish prayer shawl (Hebrew tallit) with a fringe in each of its corners (Hebrew tzitzit), which he wears. As stated in Numbers 15:37-41, the fringes are signs of the covenant between God and his people Israel. Hence, Simeon´s prayer shawl is a reminder both of the fact that Jesus is a Jew and that he is delivered into the arms of the Jewish people. God will manifest his eternal faithfulness to his covenant through this child, and the new covenant will confirm the earlier covenants – not replace them.