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;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
This past Sunday was the Feast of the Presentation. For the Eastern Orthodox, it is one of the Twelve Great Feasts. It is also the only feast that is equally a feast of the Lord and a feast of the Lady (the Blessed Virgin Mary). It is a time when we remember one of the theophanies of Our Lord Jesus Christ and one of the greatest prophecies that exist about the Theotokos. This is the prophecy in which it is said that a sword will pierce her heart. That prophecy ranks with Isaiah’s prophecy about the Virgin bearing a child as it speaks equally to what Mary will go through as part of her being the Handmaiden of the Lord.
But, that is not what speaks to me. Rather, what most speaks to me is a prayer that is found in every service of Vespers, celebrated evening after evening in the Orthodox Church. And it is Symeon’s Prayer.” Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace …” I do not know when that prayer became so meaningful to me. It is the prayer of a person who has seen all that he needs to see and needs nothing more in life. It is a prayer that I would have never understood when I was younger. But, I am older now. I am a grandfather. And, I am just barely beginning to understand this prayer. No, I do not wish to die. I still have things I wish to accomplish. I still have more that I wish to do.
But, somehow, I have begun to understand a little of what that prayer means. If you are following the Lord, the older you get, little by little the more you become ready to consider the end. And, yet, there is a prayer there as well. “… lettest thou thy servant depart in peace …” To put it another way, let my ending be a peaceful one. Let me depart when I am ready. This is not an unusual prayer. None of us wish to die in violence, or in pain, or unexpectedly.
And so, I find this prayer attractive. This is now my prayer. I have now lived longer than my father. I have lived longer than some of my high school classmates. I have lived longer than some of my fellow pastors whom I thought would live to a ripe old age. I am now at the age at which I recognize the power of Symeon’s Prayer. “… Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace …”
May Our Lord grant each and every one of you a good answer to that prayer.