Symeon the God-receiver and Patient Endurance - Homily on the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord (2024)

Symeon the God-receiver and Patient Endurance - Homily on the Feast of the Meeting of Our Lord (2024) - Holy Cross Monastery



Today is the fortieth day since we celebrated the Nativity of Christ, and so today, we celebrate the Meeting of the Lord, a Feast of the Lord having its roots in the book of Exodus wherein the Lord gave the command to Moses: “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” (13.1-2, cf. Luke 2.23). We celebrate this event today because Christ is the firstborn male, and the first offspring, and, therefore, was brought into the Temple by his parents, confirming their obedience to the Law.

Having just celebrated the birth of Christ, we heard of God’s providence in the Annunciation, the virgin birth, Joseph’s acceptance of these circumstances, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, and once again, being displayed before us in the present Feast. When the child Jesus is brought to the Temple, there also is a man named Symeon, as the Apostle Luke recounts in his Gospel (2.27). Symeon had been instructed by God to come to the Temple on this day, and it is then and there that he recognizes who the child is and then announces: “…mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel”(2.29-32)

Today’s homily will focus on the place of this Symeon within the context of our Feast.


The life of Symeon is unique in that he was told that he would not die before seeing the Messiah. Tradition tells us that Symeon was one of the seventy translators of the Septuagint. He hesitated over the translation of Isaiah 7:14 , which reads (LXX: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive...”) and was going to correct it to γυνή (woman), but an angel appeared to him and told him that he would not die until he had seen the Christ born of a virgin, affirming the proper translation and interpretation. At the time of Christ’s presentation in the Temple, Symeon would have been over two hundred years old. St. Nikodemos, the Hagiorite, notes that there are some incongruencies in the details of his life, but, nevertheless, he resorts to the Gospel noting that the Apostle Luke tells us:

And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Symeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. (Luke 2.25-26)

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, today, Symeon was led into the Temple and recognized Christ and the Virgin to whom He was born.

The Patience of Symeon

As Abraham awaited the promise of a child from the Lord, he mistakenly thought that perhaps it was to be fulfilled by conceiving a child with Sarah’s slave Hagar, but this was not to be. Joachim and Anna faced ridicule and ostracization, which they patiently endured until God gave them a child. What about Symeon? About him, we hear nothing of this, nothing of any despair, any doubt, nor of any strength or endurance, or patience - not anything. Did he wonder at the many children he saw throughout his life as to whether or not they were the Messiah? Did he think he was deluded? Did he doubt his ability to discern the moment that this should happen? How would he know? What does the patience of holy men look like? How about the patience of a man who was given a very particular promise regarding the nation of Israel, her Messiah, and His own death? In time, being led by the Holy Spirit to the Temple, God enabled him to recognize the Messiah.


The Lord said, “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21.19), but what is this patience? St. Maximos the Confessor says that alongside self-control, it is patience which protects the soul and guards all the virtues (Second Century of Various Texts, #78). St. Peter of Damascus is even more explicit and says that “patient endurance is the consolidation of all the virtues because without it not one of them can subsist”(Twenty-four Discourses, 222).

In short, St. Peter writes, patient endurance is required before anything can come about; and, once something has come about, it can be sustained and brought to perfection only through such endurance. If it is something good, this virtue assists and guards it; if something evil, it confers relief and strength of soul and does not permit the person being tempted to grow faint-hearted, thus experiencing a foretaste of hell. Patient endurance kills the despair that kills the soul; it teaches the soul to take comfort and not grow listless in the face of many battles and afflictions. (ibid.)

Patience which hopes in God’s promises

What encourages patience is one’s hope in God, one’s trust that God will do what He has promised us He will do (cf. Rom. 8.25). Throughout the Scriptures, throughout the history of the Church, and manifest throughout the lives of the Saints, we see how God keeps his promises; we see a reason for hope. Though our thoughts may be confused, doubts arise, the world crushes in, and our spiritual perception becomes clouded - it is patience that affirms the hope we have in God, the trust we have in the promises He has given us, cf. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (James 1.12). “Fear not, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12.32) and “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28.20). Though, in confusion, Abraham bore a son with Hagar, yet once fortified, he willingly was going to offer his only son Isaac when God asked him to, reaffirming the faith which he now had in God’s promises.

Patience and suffering

Perhaps we understand patience as something possible when we know that the situation in which patience is needed will come to an end. Some may see this in regards to sickness, or poverty, or the trials of relationships. “Will this day ever come to an end?” We are patient and hope for health, for financial security, for the resolution of differences, for justice, and hope against despair and discouragement. However, what if it is slow in coming, very slow? What if it doesn’t come? Mind you, these are not wrong to hope for. We even pray for such things for ourselves and others, for peace, health, and good success in all things.

However, freedom from such things in this life is not always understood as the fulfillment of our patient endurance. Sometimes, the fulfillment of our patience will only be found after death.

But there are also those who have attained the virtue of patience, and have even accepted sufferings or even asked for them. At the end of his life, the layman Ivan Kontzevich (the great, 20th-century chronicler of Optina life and spirituality), on his deathbed, had a lot of pain. “Will I suffer long?” he asked and then immediately answered himself, “Let me suffer longer, that it might be better for me in the Kingdom of Heaven” (The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russa, 344). We find that the Apostle Peter, when he was to be crucified, desired to be crucified upside down, so as not to be too much like his Lord. St. Gabriel of the Seven Lakes Monastery, after mistakenly being given a highly alkaline drink used for pickling, which caused him to cough up parts of his esophagus and stomach lining immediately, setting aside his own suffering, continued to say, “I need to love more.”

Patience guards the virtues, and it is patience which enables one to retain the grace one is given, as opposed to impatience which drives God and His grace from oneself. Patience allows one to endure hardships and to know the presence and love of God. Although it is common to hear that someone has “the patience of Job,” yet are we aware that his wife and friends encouraged him to turn away from God, but he replied saying, “though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”(13.15)?

In Diveyevo, one hears about the liquidation of the Convent during Soviet times, the persecutions of the nuns, their banishment, and imprisonment. However, before it happened, Blessed Pasha told them, they would go to another convent, and they did, to the gulag, and many of the nuns accepted this lot, this providence, and did not complain, and lived there with it as their convent, saving their souls.

Moreover, for the struggle to which patience endurance benefits us, we do not always know why it happens. Sometimes, we do not receive an answer when we would like it. Elder Ephraim of Arizona makes this point when recalling the final moments of his elder’s life. After having received a revelation about his departure, St. Joseph the Hesychast found his death to be slow in coming and began to question out loud what was taking place, saying,

The sun is rising higher, my child. Why hasn’t God taken me? His decision was clear. Why is He slow in taking me? The sun is high and he should have taken me by now.” Yet, it pleased God to take him two hours later, Elder Ephraim recalls. Why? for the reason, we are told, that “God wanted to teach him the final lesson of human weakness so that he would not be self-reliant. It is as if God were saying, ‘Anyone who relies on his own capabilities will be weak without my grace. No matter how many years you live, no matter how much experience you acquire, you still cannot do anything without me. (My Elder: Joseph the Hesychast, 629-630).


Symeon, before his death, saw the Messiah and acknowledged Him as such. He then prophesied to the Theotokos that she would suffer many things. Reverend Fathers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, if you want to give birth to Christ in your life, if you want your consolation to come, if you want the Holy Ghost to dwell within you, then learn patience. Know that you will suffer. Know that you will have tribulations.  But know also, that you will behold Christ, your glory and your salvation.




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