Sermon for Candlemas Eucharist

1 February 2008 at :00 am

Simeon said, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”

Anna was an old woman. Unlike Simeon, she never left the temple. She had been there, fasting and praying, longing and waiting.

This theme of longing and waiting is important. The epistle to the Hebrews lists the faith of God’s ancient people the Jews.

“By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac …
“By faith Isaac invoked blessings …
“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph …
“By faith Joseph ...
“By faith Moses …
“By faith the people passed through the Red Sea …
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell ...
“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish ...”

And then the letter to the Hebrews goes on to ask, “And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets…” And the letter recalls their heroic virtues and sufferings.

But now comes the crucial point, the culmination of all this magnificent build-up. “Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, without us, be made perfect.” They waited and longed but it is only those who have come to know and to trust the Lord Jesus who have seen. They included the Hebrews to whom the letter was addressed.

“Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Does that include us? We have not seen as Simeon saw, as Anna saw.

It was a surprise to many of us to hear last year of the difficulties Mother Teresa had in her devotional life. According to a biographer who seems to have known her well, for year after year she had no personal sense of the power or the love of God. She waited and longed for God but had no sense of his presence. Even so, she maintained faithfully her religious life and her active commitment to God’s work on earth. We may ask how she did that, why she did that, if she had no help or consolation from the sense of the presence of God. The answer is that she did not see but she believed.

The experience of Mother Teresa is probably truer to that of many of us than the experience of the old man Simeon. We are not amongst those who have seen. Not for us the experience of Anna. Not for us the experience of Thomas, recorded in St John’s Gospel, which tells us that, at last, doubting Thomas saw the marks of the crucifixion in the risen body of the Lord Christ. He saw and he believed. But even he saw with the eyes of faith.

In the end it is faith not sight that matters. As Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe but we are still those who are waiting, longing and waiting. Now we see when we see at all through a glass darkly. One day, we shall see face to face, and seeing we shall love and loving we shall have life eternal.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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