These past Sundays, we've been singing the post communion canticle during worship; I love this song! Here's the story about Simeon's Song:
Luke 2: The Message
22-24 Then when the days stipulated by Moses for purification were complete, they took him up to Jerusalem to offer him to God as commanded in God’s Law: “Every male who opens the womb shall be a holy offering to God,” and also to sacrifice the “pair of doves or two young pigeons” prescribed in God’s Law.
25-32 In Jerusalem at the time, there was a man, Simeon by name, a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel. And the Holy Spirit was on him. The Holy Spirit had shown him that he would see the Messiah of God before he died. Led by the Spirit, he entered the Temple. As the parents of the child Jesus brought him in to carry out the rituals of the Law, Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God:
"God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel."
33-35 Jesus’ father and mother were speechless with surprise at these words. Simeon went on to bless them, and said to Mary his mother, This child marks both the failure and the recovery of many in Israel, A figure misunderstood and contradicted—the pain of a sword-thrust through you— But the rejection will force honesty, as God reveals who they really are.
36-38 Anna the prophetess was also there, a daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher. She was by now a very old woman. She had been married seven years and a widow for eighty-four. She never left the Temple area, worshiping night and day with her fastings and prayers. At the very time Simeon was praying, she showed up, broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Voices! Listen! Your scouts are shouting, thunderclap shouts, shouting in joyful unison. They see with their own eyes God coming back to Zion. Break into song! Boom it out, ruins of Jerusalem:
“God has comforted his people! He’s redeemed Jerusalem!” God has rolled up his sleeves. All the nations can see his holy, muscled arm. Everyone, from one end of the earth to the other,
sees him at work, doing his salvation work.
In Lutheran worship books, it used to be called the Nunc Dimmitus. Wiki says, "The title is formed from the opening words in the Latin Vulgate, "Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine" ("Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord"). Although brief the Canticle abounds in Old-Testament allusions. Thus, "Because my eyes have seen thy salvation" alludes to Isaiah 52:10.
There are many musical settings for this song; some think the one in our current setting is sort of "down." However, i just love the words; here are two variations:
English (Book of Common Prayer, 1662):
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
English (Roman Breviary):
Now, Master, you let your servant go in peace. You have fulfilled your promise. My own eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all peoples.
A light to bring the Gentiles from darkness; the glory of your people Israel.
I sang this recently while visiting a homebound person in pain who is ready to "go home." It is comforting...
We also want to leave our worship in peace, refreshed and ready to communicate with one another, to go do God's work, to be God's light in this world!