Forty days after Christ was born, He was presented to God in the Jerusalem Temple according to the Mosaic Law. At this time as well, His mother underwent the ritual purification and offered the sacrifices as prescribed in the Law. The, forty days after Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation called the MEETING (or Presentation or Reception) of the Lord.
The meeting of Christ by the Elder Simeon and the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-36) is the main event of the Feast of Christ’s presentation in the Temple. It was “revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26), and inspired by the same Spirit, he came to the Temple where he met the new-born Messiah, took Him in his arms and said the words which are now chanted each evening at the end of the Orthodox Vesper service:
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of Thy people Israel (Luke 2:29-31).
At this time as well Simeon predicted that Jesus would be the “sign which is spoken against” and that He would cause “the fall and rising of many in Israel.” He also foretold Mary’s sufferings because of her Son. (Luke 22:34-35) Anna also was present and, giving thanks to God “she spoke of Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38)
In the service of the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, the fact emphasized is that Christ, the Son and Word of God through Whom the world was created, now is held as an infant in Simeon’s hands; this same Son of God, the Giver of the Law, now himself fulfills the Law, carried in arms as a human child.
Let the door of heaven open today, for the Eternal Word of the Father, without giving up His Divinity, has been Incarnate of the Virgin in time. And as a babe of forty days He is voluntarily brought by His mother to the Temple, according to the Law. And the elder Simeon takes Him in his arms and cries out:
Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, O Lord, Who has come to save the human race – glory to Thee. (Vespers verses)
The celebration of the meeting of the Lord in the Church is not merely a historical commemoration. Inspired by the same Holy Spirit as Simeon, and led by the same Spirit into the Church of the Messiah, the members of the Church also can claim their own “meeting” with the Lord, and so also can witness that they too can “depart in peace” since their eyes have seen the salvation of God in the person of His Christ.
By Thy Nativity, Thou dids’t sanctify the Virgin’s womb. And didst bless Simeon’s hands, O Christ our God. Now Thou hast come and save us through love. Grant peace to all Orthodox Christians. O only lover of man. (Kontakion)