Patience is a virtue. Indeed it is one of the hardest virtues to acquire, and more importantly, to maintain. Patience does not come naturally. We all need to work to maintain our patience. Once a man was observed in a supermarket with a small child. He clearly did not do the weekly shopping regularly and his struggles were made more difficult with the crying and the running to and fro of a small toddler – obviously his son. The child was darting here at there and would excitedly yell with glee or in a loud voice demand that his father purchase this or that item or sweet. Every so often the father was heard to say “patience, Vasili”. After hearing him say “patience, Vasili” on a number of occasions an elderly lady approached him and commended him on how he was encouraging his son Vasili to be patient. Whereupon the man turned to the old lady and said to her “Madam I am Vasili”.
Like Vasili, we also have to work to acquire patience. Daily we are confronted with difficult, stubborn, and even foolish people. Sometimes, we are confronted with people that have little or no patience for us. When we are confronted by those who lack patience towards us we feel slighted, upset and misjudged. If we feel that when we have been hastily dealt with then we should have sufficient empathy to understand that all those people that we considered difficult, stubborn or foolish would also feel slighted, upset and misjudged by us as we hastily dismissed them. This insight is the beginning of patience.
Patience requires love and tolerance. If one looks at a mother with an infant child she does not become impatient or lose her temper when her child is crying. She does not hastily dismiss her child’s tears. To the contrary, she does all in her power to stop her child from crying. Likewise as the child is growing from baby to infant, to toddler, through the terrible twos, through toilet training, through tantrums and through the thousand and one other upsets that occur during the early years of the child’s life a mother’s love and patience is endless.
As children grow, experience demonstrates that unfortunately their problems do not diminish. There is a lot of truth in the saying “small children small problems; big children big problems”. Throughout the teenage years and into early adulthood parents’ love and patience are sorely tested. Yet, because they are our children we never give up on them. We always have a reassuring word for them. We are always patient with them and we want them to be safe from all harm and hurt and we do this because we love them.
Patience is not a passive state of mind. It is an activity of the human will that does not accept things as they are but says that I am prepared to wait for you to see things clearly and until you do I will be next to you to support you. Patience is not weakness. It is an action of strength and power.
So what does all this have to do with the righteous Simeon? We are told that Simeon had revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. So what did Simeon do? He went to the Temple and waited and waited and waited. At last the Christ child was presented to the Temple. Immediately Simeon was filled with a power the spirit, took the child in his arms, blessed God and said “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which has been prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel”. Simeon was patient in his waiting. He was confident in his waiting and when the time came he knew that his wait was worth it.
Simeon went to a peaceful death, he went to a fulfilling death and he went to his death joyfully because his eyes had seen the coming of the Lord in the 40 day old baby he held in his arms. What conviction! What faith! What courage!
Simeon was not the only person on that occasion to give praise. We are told that Anna of the tribe of Asher who never departed from the Temple at the very hour gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all are looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
St James reminds us in his Epistle of the importance of patience: “therefore be patient, brethren until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruits of the Earth, being patient for it until it receives the early and letter rains. You also be patient. Establish your hearts for the coming of the Lord is at hand”. Our love in faith grows slowly as we develop spiritually. Remember, there are no such things as spiritual prodigies. Faith grows and is tempered through experience. Our Lord began his public ministry towards the end of his life. Even at the beginning of his public ministry he went for 40 days into the desert to contemplate. Paul, after his conversion on the road to Damascus and after having been taught the faith by Ananias went away to Arabia for three years. Faith can only grow through contemplation. Contemplation demands patience.
Let us emulate Simeon and Anna and let us never lose sight of the prize. Let us work to develop spiritually so that with conviction at the appropriate time before our Lord Jesus Christ we can say “Lord I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. Let us be able to say with conviction “Lord now let your servant depart in peace according to your word”. Amen.