Today, 2 February, is Candlemas, forty days since we celebrated Christ’s birth. It’s the day we recall the story told in Luke 2:22–39 when, as part of the prescribed purification rites, Mary and Joseph went to the Temple in Jerusalem for Jesus, as a first-born male child, to be consecrated to the Lord and a sacrifice offered of “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”.
J S Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug was performed in Leipzig for this feast in 1727. It’s a work that retells the story of Simeon who, waiting in the temple, was presented with the baby Jesus. As he held the baby in his arms, in Bach’s version he says:
It is enough.
I have held the Saviour, the hope of all peoples,
in the warm embrace of my arms.
It is enough.
Recently, an edition of BBC Radio 4’s Soul Music was based on this cantata, and the contributors shared some heart-warming thoughts. Some of these are quoted below, but do listen to the whole programme if you can – it’s still available at this link.
“… it’s based on the experience of this old man, but it’s about all of us finding that we share this experience with him, whatever age.”
“… the holding of a baby is such an amazing thing you forget how wonderful it is, and then, if you’re holding the hope of the future, or God, it’s extraordinary.”
“There is something about him saying, I have seen the future, I have seen salvation before my eyes, but I don’t have to be here for it to come to fruition.”
Simeon meets Mary and Joseph and Jesus, and knows that this is the Messiah. Simeon was greeting the future and saying, “I recognise you. Now, go and change the world.”
Which is what he did, and continues to do through his Church and us, his disciples.