Ich habe genug – celebrating Candlemas

Today is Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

As Mary and Joseph take their son to the Temple for his dedication, two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, get a glimpse of the saviour of the world and share their prophecies of hope, pain and joy.

Simeon sings a hymn of praise which we now sing at Evensong or Compline as the Nunc Dimittis.

Bach put this song to music in perhaps its most beautiful setting, sung in German, Ich habe genug – I have enough. Here are the lyrics and translation:

Ich habe genug,
Ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der Frommen,
Auf meine begierigen Arme genommen;
Ich habe genug!
Ich hab ihn erblickt,
Mein Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze gedrückt;
Nun wünsch ich, noch heute mit Freuden
Von hinnen zu scheiden.

I have enough,
I have taken the Saviour, the hope of the righteous,
into my eager arms;
I have enough!
I have beheld Him,
my faith has pressed Jesus to my heart;
now I wish, even today with joy
to depart from here.

The rest of the arias can be found here.

A wonderful 30 minute exploration of this cantata can be heard on BBC iPlayer, perfect to listen to after your Sunday lunch today:


Painting of Simeon holding the baby Jesus
By Aert de Gelder – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=467320

The whole encounter with Christ in the Temple is filled with wonder and beauty – as often happens when a new born child is brought into a room. 4th century saint Ephraim of Syria imagined Simeon and Anna’s songs as a lullaby. Meditate on these words:

Praise to you, Son of the Most High, who has put on our body.

Into the holy temple Simeon carried the Christ-child

and sang a lullaby to him:

‘You have come, Compassionate One,

having pity on my old age, making my bones enter into Sheol in peace.

By you I will be raised out of the grave into paradise.’

Anna embraced the child; she placed her mouth

upon His lips, and then the Spirit rested

upon her lips, like Isaiah

whose mouth was silent until a coal drew near

to his lips and opened his mouth.

Anna was aglow with the spirit of his mouth.

She sang him a lullaby:

‘Royal Son, despised son, being silent, you hear;

hidden, you see; concealed, you know; God-man, glory to your name.’

The barren woman Elizabeth cried out as she was accustomed,

‘Who has granted to me, blessed woman,

to see your Babe by whom heaven and earth are filled? Blessed is your fruit

that brought forth the cluster on a barren vine.’

Praise to you, Son of the Most High, who has put on our body.

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