February 15, 2017
By Kassa Nigus
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church celebrates the entrance of Our Lord Jesus Christ into the Temple on Yekatit 8 (February 15) carried by His mother, Saint Mary. The Ethiopian Church calls the feast, ‘Lidete Semon’ to remember the anticipation of Semon with the Holy family at the Temple.
The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40). St. Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after His birth to complete the ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.).
Saint Mary and Saint Joseph kept this law, even though, St.Mary would not have had to go through ritual purification since she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ. They did this to fulfill the customs of their nation as Jews. This was according to the law which God had given to Israel, and Jesus also abided by that very rule. Luke explicitly says that St Joseph and St Mary took the option for poor people offering "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons" as they couldn’t afford a lamb. (Leviticus 12:1–4)
Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon, an old man who had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ" (Luke 2:26). According to church manuscripts, Simeon was one of the 70 scholars who were chosen by a king called Betlimos (Ptolemy II ) to translate and interpret the book of the prophets from Hebrew to Greek (Tsir’e). The translation of the Hebrew Bible into the Greek language is known as the Septuagint (the LXX). The name “Septuagint” comes from the Latin word for seventy.
Simeon was in charge of translating the book of Isaiah. As he reached the sentence that read, “behold the Virgin becomes pregnant and gives birth” (Isa. 7:14), he was confused by the discrepancy as women cannot be virgin and pregnant at the same time except St Mary.
As he feared that a direct translation of the text will cast a shadow of doubt over his translation skills and he could face punishment due to that, he replaced the word ‘virgin’ with ‘woman’. But after a while he witnessed a miracle: the word ‘woman’ was replaced by ‘virgin’. He erased that and wrote ‘woman’ instead of ‘virgin’. But the word was erased again miraculously. Then an angel came to him, told him not to erase the word ‘virgin’ and said, “you shall not see death before you see the Lord’s Christ (whom the Virgin gave birth to)" (Luke 2:26).
Simeon lived for 500 years was bed ridden. But when he met the Holy Family at the temple and carried the Child Jesus Christ, he regained his strength and was full of energy like a young man. That is why the Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates the day and named it ‘Lidete Simeon’ (Birth of Simeon).
At that time, Simeon offered a prayer which came to be known as the prayer of Simeon, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant departs in peace; according to Thy word: for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people: to be a light to lighten the gentiles and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29–32).
Simeon then said to Mary: "Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34–35).
• ወንጌል ቅዱስ ዘእግዚእነ ወመድኃኒነ ኤየሱስ ክርስቶስ ዘዜነዉ ማቴዎስ ወማርቆስ ሉቃስ ወዮሐንስ::( The four Gospels commentary), written and interpreted by Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church scholars, 19 88 Eth.Ca, pp. 382.
• Ethiopic Synaxarium on February 16.