With faltering steps Simeon entered into the temple by the southern gate. He could not enter by the northern gate called “Sheep Gate” as it was crowded by the vendors and money changers.
Simeon was a righteous and devout man residing near the Jerusalem temple. He used to visit the temple everyday and worship the Almighty God. Aged as he was, he had seen all the changes that the Israelites had to face in the famous capital city of King David. When he was a small boy the temple was in a damaged condition, as it was attacked by the Babylonian and Assyrian invasions. King Herod rebuilt it again with an ambition that it should be greater than even the work of King Solomon.
Simeon had a very great trust in the Providence of God and was looking forward to the consolation of Israel which should free his people from the yoke of unjust rulers. He was sad to see his people suffering slavery under the Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans. He was expecting eagerly for the day of the Promised Lord to free them from all fetters.
“Praise to you in the name of God, Simeon,” Anna’s salutation brought Simeon back from his deep thoughts.
“Are you still sweeping the floor, Anna?” Simeon’s words were squeezed by the heavy breath he had to take to enter into the temple.
Anna was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was a widow, aged eighty four years. She had lost her husband after seven years of their marriage. After becoming a widow, Anna never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day, doing some odd jobs now and then.
“What is that great noise? It’s unusual, anything wrong there?” enquired Anna with queer eyes.
She knew there was more noise these days than it was in the past. The city became crowded these days as many poured into the city to register their names as per the recent Roman law of census. A lot of people who came to Bethlehem, the city of David which was nearby, came to Jerusalem also to worship in the temple and fulfill other obligations.
“Yes Anna, today it is more crowded and noisy. I couldn’t enter the temple by the Sheep Gate in the north. There is more crowd with vendors and money changers.”
The Sheep Gate was filled with sheep, doves and other offerings. Before buying an animal, dove or other things the devotees had to change their Roman denarii into shekels, the Temple coins, that had no portraits on them and so did not violate the Jewish prohibition of graven images. Herod who was the king had allowed the money changers onto the temple platform in the north.
The great noise at the north was piercing their ears unable to hear each other. They could see a couple going into the temple to offer the two doves that the man had in his hand. The woman near him was holding a child. The child too should have been disturbed by the unpleasant noise.
Something strange was felt in the heart of Simeon. The child’s face in that lady’s hand had a magical attraction to him.
“Who is this? A strange couple and a child? Is this the one?” His inner soul was telling him something.
“Seems to be poor people. They are taking the doves for their purification offering” Simeon said to himself.
“Anna, this should be the expected one, the Messiah. The Spirit in my heart inspires me that something strange is happening today,” words of excitement just fell out of Simeon’s mouth.
“I too have a strange feeling in me. It should be the voice of God, a promise in our twilight years of life!” Anna too was excited.
Both of them rushed to the couple with the child. Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God.
“Master now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.”(Luke2: 29-32)
All that followed were in some kind of ecstasy. With contented hearts Simeon and Anna stepped out of the temple--into the shadow of the twilight evening.
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