He had only one thing on his bucket list. Simeon was one of those kind old men who lingers long after the religious service, blessing with his smile everyone who looks at his face. He wanted just one thing before he died. And God had promised him that he would get it. A glimpse. Before he let go of of his kindly, animated mortal presence in the earthly Temple, Simeon knew he would lay his eyes on the savior who was to come. Luke tells us all about it in chapter two. The day when Mary and Joseph brought their almost two month old to the Temple for consecration, Simeon was there as always. His effusive, kindly nature and a twinkle in his eye was why Mary didn’t mind handing over her baby to this elderly gentleman. And then he sang, Luke’s characters have a habit of doing that, he writes them like they’re in a musical, compete with a dancing angel chorus when Jesus was born. Simeon gets a short ballad when he gets to see Jesus, and begins with the words, “Now dismiss your servant, I can die peacefully, Lord, for I’ve seen the face of the one who will save us, all of us.” I paraphrase a little. The Latin version begins with the words “Nunc dimittis servum tuum.” In short, seeing the savior was on Simeon’s bucket list and “Nunc dimittis was his song that tells us he got it.
I’ve got more on my bucket list than Simeon, and, hopefully, many more years ahead, but I’ve heard Simeon’s ballad and his opening phrase run through my head a lot on this trip. But none more loudly than today as I made my pilgrimage inside the tomb of Christ, inside the Church of the Holy Sepluchre. I didn’t spend the night locked in, as a friend of mine has done , but I’m planning that for a future trip. There is the strongest of scholarly evidence to suggest that this is indeed is the place where Jesus’ lifeless body was placed after his death. For believing Christians, this is also the place where, in the midnight hours, three days after death, Jesus was raised to life again with all the glorious fullness that human beings are called to. The tomb is a holy place.
Paul, Dan and I left early on our free morning. We had some small adventures touring the rooftops of the Old City marketplace led by a native. The three of us paid homage to Golgotha, kissed the spot where his body was washed hurriedly and wrapped and then made our way inside the tomb itself, called the Edicule. Once inside, we sang. Quietly, but sang we did as we awaited briefly for our turn to enter the inner chamber and kneel down.Three men spontaneously singing “I am the bread of life.” Maybe St Luke is right about life being a musical.
We also said goodbye to 2/3 of our group. Barb and Maureen are heading home with them as this completes the Israel part of our trip. Tomorrow Paul, Warren, Nellie and I head for Jordon to visit Mt Nebo and Petra. I was also saying lots and lots of prayers and naming so many of my dear friends and loved ones at the Western Wall. Another thing from my bucket list.