Candlemas: a reflection

“Lord now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation…”

I didn’t think it would be like this, the promise you gave me. I thought that you would be coming in glory, as Isaiah saw you in the temple but oh! so much more.  I imagined your glory overflowing the temple, spilling out into the streets, the sound of your trumpets in our ears.  We would be falling to the ground in awe or dancing for joy through Jerusalem, our enemies running in fear.

I didn’t think it would be like this – this baby, this moment of quiet recognition.  When I knew who he was I took him from his mother, so that just briefly, I could hold the Chosen One. 

I didn’t think it would be like this.  It seemed easy at first: “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, for the glory of your people Israel…”

But the baby in my arms was getting heavier. How can a six week old child be so heavy? He seemed to be heavy with the weight of all the grief and despair and evil in the world. He had no path of glory ahead, I could see that.

“A sword will pierce your heart,” I said to the girl, standing beside me.

The baby became heavier still.  How much longer could I hold him, I wondered.  I couldn’t give him back to his mother like this.  She was not strong enough to hold him.  He was too much, even for me.  Soon I would crumple to the floor under his weight.  Desperately I looked round the Temple for help. I could hold him no longer.   

Anna saw.  She hobbled towards me, leaning on her stick. Anna is old, older even than me.  For more than sixty years she has lived here in the Temple, praying and fasting, day and night.       

She took the baby from me and held him as if he was as light as a bubble. 

And then she was running through the temple, shouting in joy, pausing only to show him to the people crowding in.

You kept your promise.

She saw the joy and the glory in the baby, while I saw the way… the way to what? I could not see where it led but I knew it would be a desolate place with the baby alone in the dark…

But I knew then.  It is two sides of the same thing, the glory and the despair, the light and the dark.  I saw the desolation and Anna saw the joy, but it doesn’t matter, for both are there.

She is coming back now, her feet tripping lightly on the temple floor, carrying the baby, light as air. She hands the baby to his mother and he snuffles and wriggles as all babies do.  Anna and his mother smile at each other.  His father puts his hand on the baby’s head and the baby smiles up at him.

Anna turns to me and I see that she understands. His mother will too, some day…

Anna picks up her stick and hobbles away. She will carry on praying and fasting, night and day.

Lord now let your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation…   

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