Nunc Dimittis

 Simeon’s Song of Praise,” by Arent de Gelder

When Israel was reunited with his son Joseph in Egypt, he said, “Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, because thou art yet alive” (Genesis 46:30).

Many years later, a man named Simeon expressed a similar sentiment upon seeing the baby Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem. Simeon was a devout believer who had the companionship of the Holy Ghost. God had promised him that he would see the Messiah before he died. (See Luke 2:25-26.) When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple, Simeon recognized Him instantly. “Lord,” he said, “now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people” (Luke 2:29-31). Simeon’s prayer is commonly known as the Nunc Dimittis, after the first two words of the prayer in Latin, meaning “now dismiss” or “now let [me] depart.”

Are you ready to die? That might seem like a morbid question, but it can also be an instructive one. You may not feel ready because there is something amiss in your life, something that requires repentance. The prophet Alma asked, “Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins?” (Alma 5:27).

Or, like Simeon before he saw Jesus (and perhaps like Israel before his reunion with Joseph), you may simply feel that there is more to be done, that you haven’t yet completed your mortal journey. When Amulek expressed the fear that he and Alma would be killed in Ammonihah, Alma replied, “Be it according to the will of the Lord. But, behold, our work is not finished; therefore they burn us not” (Alma 14:13).

There is a serenity in knowing that our work is done, in being able to say to God, “I’ve done the work thou gavest me.” (See “Behold the Great Redeemer Die,” Hymns, 191.) Or to say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). But there is also a calm assurance in the sense that we have more to do and there will be time to do it. “Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof” might also imply, “sufficient is the day unto the good thereof.” (See 3 Nephi 13:34 and my blog post about this verse.)

Today, I will remember Simeon’s quiet assurance as he lived by the guidance of the Holy Ghost. I will strive for readiness to be called home at any time, but I will also live with confidence that there will be enough time for me to do all that I need to do in this life.

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