By Annie-Rose Keith
Connecting Faith and Life
Heroic details of Christ’s ministry in the Gospel of Luke include rich imagery meant to invite readers into a deeper understanding of the call of every Christian’s walk towards eternity. This understanding is applicable even in modernity, as the vibrant word choice easily captures attention in corporate and personal prayer situations – especially in light of the increasing number of worldly distractions. The invitation from Christ to follow Him is reflected in Luke’s writings, and brings readers to know and welcome the Holy Spirit.
Early Christianity took its shape out of the Spirit working in, through and against the norms of society’s legalities and culture, bringing the universal Church into the political and spiritual structure appreciated today. For example, in Luke 2: 1-7, we see an earth-shattering miracle happening within the confines of society and society’s legal need. Jesus, the Savior of the world, is to be born in the midst of a census – to a couple who arguably does not meet the societal or legal requirements to have a child. Even so, Jesus is born; and the Holy Family is counted in the census. The shepherds and wise men declared Christ’s divinity within the confines of their prescribed societal roles, but it was clear that this particular birth was different. This event was miraculous from earthly and supernatural standards, yet the birth of the Savior of the world unfolded relatively quietly against the backdrop of Herodian turmoil.
After the requisite period of waiting, Jesus is taken to the temple for purification and necessary sacrifices. This was all according to Jewish law and custom, and those important requirements were met. Simeon, however, was awaiting the Messiah, and thus a happy death, in the temple. This elderly man was leading the Spirit-led charge to find the Messiah and, in his old age, remained in the temple until God provided. This response shows tremendous trust and is a hallmark of complete faith that Christians must possess. Humor me for a moment as we step into some Ignatian prayer and wonder; was Simeon bored in the temple?
Simeon prophesied over Jesus as a man who was “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him" (Luke 2:25). Whether Simeon was aware that the Holy Spirit was upon him is for another time; nevertheless, the Holy Family’s visit to the temple was an expectation. Through this prophecy fulfilled, another marker for Christ’s purpose was formally declared. It was not expected, but still occurred at the temple and not at another location that goes against what was expected in the typical temple cycle of the average early Jew. This fact makes it clear that the gift of the Spirit was present but, much like a relationship with God, the more one learns and develops a relationship with the Trinity, the more one grows in love. The language that could describe the influence of the Spirit was still developing. Simeon’s prophecy and subsequent praises do not mention the third person of the Trinity even though the Spirit was very much at work. Do we have the language to call out the Spirit moving when we see it?