John Mark Reynolds, 2005.
Sometimes, some days, I feel very old. It happens when a student talks about classic films from the nineties or when my freshman can only dimly recall the Clinton administration.
It makes me a bit sad. It seems like just a few days ago that I was teaching an experimental on-line philosophy course for Q-Link on my Commodore 64. We were the cutting edge. Getting old is not hard to do, just hard to accept. There does not seem much good about it.
Then I remember a really old man, the prophet Simeon. Here was a man who spent his time waiting for the coming of the Messiah, simply waiting. He was listening for the voice of God. When he was young, he had been promised that he would not die before he saw God’s Promise and so he waited. And he waited. At first, his friends must have thought him dedicated, then mad, and then simply old and crazy. Finally, most of his friends were dead and Simeon would have been in the Temple alone. Waiting.
Was this a life well spent? He must have wondered. Towards the end, he must have felt that death would be better than another day listening to the crying babies and hoping. Hope gets thin after twenty years. It is all about gone after fifty.
Then one day he head a baby. And he knew. His patience and prayer had made his spirit ready to recognize God’s cry when it came. Of all the leaders of Israel, holy Simeon was one of the few that knew. Young Simeon had heard prophecy and imagined greatness. Old Simeon had become fit to hold Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? Getting old for Simeon made him fit to see and touch Jesus Christ. It was worth it. Here what he said:
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 the glory of thy people Israel.
Old age is a slow motion martyrdom. If we let it, it grows us up and prepares us for Paradise. It cannot be easy, because our souls are in tough shape. We give up things we think we want, even things that seem natural to us and good. We see and hear hurtful things.
If like Simeon we wait on God, then we shall see Him. Most of us are impatient or refuse to grow old in our waiting. We rush about like a young person hoping that our rushing will disguise our creaky joints. What is our reward? As Simeon shows us, it is to hold Wisdom in our arms and behold salvation with our eyes. And then? And then we die and see God’s face forever. We have become souls fit for Paradise.
Thank God for you, holy Simeon, blessed old man. May I become like you and may I too see at the very end of my days the glory of your people Israel.