by Laurie Gudim
Feast of the Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ
Once, to end an interminable vestry meeting which had been crammed with anxiety and fierce disagreements, we prayed Compline. Secretly I fumed; the meeting had already gone beyond the time we had planned for it by over an hour. I couldn’t wait to be quit of the people around me. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there, go home and justify myself to my partner, citing the preposterous assumptions and values of my fellow church leaders.
During the meeting I had lashed out more than once with ill considered comments, and my bad behavior hung in the air like a pervasive stink. Judging by the downcast eyes and body language of those around me, I was not the only one who writhed with the awareness of shadowy attitudes revealed. And so, as we tried to find an equilibrium that had deserted us during our previous discussion, we practically snarled the Compline prayers and psalms.
Then we came to the Nunc Dimittis and began to say together the words of the prophet Simeon as he held the baby Jesus in his arms. “For my eyes have seen your salvation,” we muttered – surly – heads hanging.
And I realized we were uttering the words of a man transported by profound revelation, a man witnessing something so wondrous that it made his life complete. Nothing after this would come anywhere near the pinnacle of hope and celebration on which he stood in that moment. For he had witnessed God in human form coming into the world. Here was salvation.
That moment was a snapshot of what it is like to be Christians in the world today. Here we are, the descendants of those who have seen a great light, a miracle surpassing miracles. We stand together around the table, groping like the blind toward life and truth and the love of God made manifest on earth. Capable of great things, we tie ourselves up instead with the petty, the vicious, the narrow and the comfortable. And yet we do stand there. We have committed ourselves to being at that table. And maybe just for a moment, once in awhile, we are transported, like Simeon, by the light that is enlightenment and glory.
Jesus was born into the stable of human machinations. In the straw of our mean-spirited self-aggrandizement and -justification, in the shadowy barn of our hunger for power and esteem is this precious bit of God. It is not in good strategies or inspired missions, in responsible planning or careful stewardship that we find salvation. It is in this tiny Christ, born into our hearts. In this helpless, vulnerable, powerless being resides, now as it ever has, the seed of wholeness, the salvation of the world.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.