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:
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: