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Friday, October 22, 2010

A fish story.

Bishop Basil at OLW Pilgrimage Oct 16, 2010
 At the recent Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham at our Parish here in North Texas, Bishop Basil of the Diocese of Wichita and Mid-America, while speaking on the subject of Devotion to Our Lady remarked on the story of Simeon, whose encounter with our Lord is recorded in the Gospel according to Saint Luke, and which provides us with the canticle typically chanted at Compline. He noted that tradition provides more detail regarding the back story of Simeon's life prior to the Encounter with Our Lord and the Mother of God in the Temple. We know from the New Testament that God promised Simeon he would not die before he saw the fulfillment of the "consolation of Israel" and beheld the Lord's Christ. How Simeon received this promise was shared from tradition by Bishop Basil.

In the mid third century BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus desired to include the bible in the Library of Alexandria, and requested scholars to work on a translation into Greek. This is the well known Septuagint, named so for the 70 elders that did the work of translation. Simeon was one of the translators, and while completing his assigned task of rendering Isaiah into Greek, he came to the words: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son" (Is 7:14). As it was not possible that a virgin can conceive he thought an error had occurred in previous copying and made to correct the term by rendering it "young girl" in his Greek version. Having been called away from his task, on returning to it he saw that the word in his translation was "virgin", and he made to change it, when an angel appeared to him and prevented him. The angel said, You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin."

The Bishop explained how sometime later, Simeon was assailed with doubt, and taking a ring from his finger, he cast it into the Mediterranean Sea saying that if the promise and translation were true, God would bring the ring to him. Later, Simeon was served a fish at a meal (perhaps the same day, my memory fails on some details now), and behold his ring was in the fish's mouth.

When Bishop Basil recounted the throwing of the ring in the sea, I guessed that it would be miraculously brought back to him via a fish. Only a few evenings before the reading appointed for Vespers had been the Gospel passage including the story were Peter was questioned  "doth not your master pay tribute." Our Lord instructed him to cast a hook in the sea, and in the mouth of the fish would be a coin to cover the tribute for both Him and Peter. An odd coincidence? Maybe.

Tradition holds that Simeon was 360 years old when he died. The Lord had blessed him by permitting him to see the Christ and he departed in peace.

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