I learned a phrase lately that has proven useful in several different contexts – the culture of scarcity. Someone described the culture we live in as one of personal scarcity. We’re never thin enough, smart enough, faithful enough…never good enough. We are full of unfulfilled promise it seems. And the opposite of scarcity is, by one author’s definition, not abundance but “enough”. That implies a level of contentment that I don’t think many people usually feel.
Our season of Epiphany begins with shepherds and wise men gathered around a promise fulfilled, a baby as it happens. And Epiphany continues with the fulfillment of another promise, one made by the prophets to an old man, Simeon and celebrated on February 2, the Feast of the Presentation. Simeon was told he would not die until he had seen his Savior, and when he beheld an infant Jesus in the temple he was content. His faith had been enough. Simply holding this baby Savior was enough.
Simeon’s story is best captured in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Simeon’s contentment is best captured in many different musical settings of the “Song of Simeon” text (the canticle Nunc dimittis). This one by the foremost composer of Renaissance England, William Byrd:
It expresses a quietness of heart and mind that we might feel when we are content. Because we have, and we are, enough in God’s eyes.
Sonya you are a teacher and an artist —- a rare combination. I now want to listen to William Byrd forever and preferably in Durham Cathedral. How does one arrange that…………