“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”– Luke 2:29-32
After we receive the Lord’s Supper, what is most often sung is the Nunc Dimittus.
Taken from the song of praise sung by a “seasoned citizen” named Simeon who was holding the infant Jesus, it becomes our song of praise upon receiving the body and blood of the same Jesus.
The previous devotions in this series on the classical liturgy are:
Part 1 – Hymnody
Part 2 – Invocation
Part 3 – Baptism
Part 4 – Confession of Sins
Part 5 – Absolution
Part 6 – Introit / Psalmody
Part 7 – Kyrie
Part 8 – Hymn of Praise
Part 9 – Scripture Readings
Part 10 – Sermon
Part 11 – Confession of Faith
Part 12 – Offering
Part 13 – Offertory
Part 14 – Prayer
Part 15 – “Our Father”
Part 16 – “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Part 17 – “Thy Kingdom Come”
Part 18 – “Daily Bread”
Part 19 – “Keep Us From Evil”
Part 20 – “Amen and Amen!”
Part 21 – Preface and Proper Preface
Part 22 – Sanctus
Part 23 – The Lord’s Supper
Part 24 – Agnus Dei
He shuffled down the dusty and quiet side street that led up to the Temple mount. He walked this route early in the morning to avoid the crowds that would surely be coming as it was nearing the time of Pentecost and thousands would mob the Temple courts in celebration.
He had been coming to the Temple for decades, ever since he received word from God Almighty Himself that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.
Each morning, as he shuffled to the Temple, he hoped and prayed that this day would be the day. He had been disappointed so many times yet he still walked up to the Temple with hope each day.
However, these last couple of weeks have been especially hopeful. News had filtered into Jerusalem that something significant had happened in Bethlehem, six miles to the south. News of angels appearing in the skies and shepherds who had seen a baby, a very special baby.
Simeon had arrived at the Temple and began waiting near the place where new mothers come to offer the sacrifice of purification.
He saw several couples with infants, but then he noticed an older man with a young wife and he knew – he just knew – this was it. They had a baby and were there to offer the purification sacrifice and dedicate the first-born son to the Lord according to the Law of Moses, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.”
The Holy Spirit nudged Simeon over to the family. They looked up in surprise and then in wonder as Simeon took Jesus into his arms and sang a song of praise that we call the “Nunc Dimittus.”
Latin for “Now you dismiss,” this song of praise was first sung to acknowledge that God keeps His promises and especially the promise of sending a Savior for both Gentiles and Israel.
Today, we sing this same song of praise after we receive the Lord’s Supper.
And for the same reasons!
Simeon held the Christ in his arms. The shepherds visited the Christ in the stable. The Magi presented their gifts to the Christ personally.
But we are two thousand years removed from this direct contact with Jesus. Or are we?
All those encounters were awesome and we sometimes wish we could have been there or have a similar experience. Then it would be so much easier to believe in Jesus!
But Martin Luther – the 16th Century Reformer – teaches us that Christ is no longer there at the Temple in Simeon’s arms, or in the stable adored by shepherds, or receiving gifts from the Magi.
Christ is also no longer on the cross or in the tomb.
But the benefits of His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection and His ascension are ours to take in hand – through the Lord’s Supper!
We can’t go back in time and stand with Simeon holding Jesus in our arms in the Temple Courts. But we can receive the body and blood of Jesus in, with, and under the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper.
And then we can sing along with Simeon giving praise to God for Jesus our Savior!