Resurrection in the Orthodox ecclesiastical understanding is the removal of sins complete atonement, complete righteousness and complete sanctification. Someone must become the sacrifice of righteousness. Who can be but the Son of God?
At each and every Divine Liturgy, we partake of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Thus, Christ is the New Sin Offering – the spotless Sacrificial Bull without blemish or imperfection and the Sacrifice of Righteousness. As St. Peter’s first Catholic Epistle states, “He Himself bore our sins in His Body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2: 24). Similarly, St. Paul states that Jesus “became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Corinthians 1: 30).
On this feast day we, like Simeon, also glorify God for we see our salvation in the One who is to be crucified. Today, we anticipate His impending sacrifice as He visits the temple in the arms of His mother. Today, we see the Light and we behold His glory in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and, with thanksgiving, we shall partake of the fiery coal of His broken Body and His shed Blood unto the cleansing of our souls, and for the hope of the resurrection to life eternal as promised to every righteous spirit made perfect in faith.
The connection and interpretive key for today’s feast, believe it or not, is the tongs! In the small Vespers services, one reads in the aposticha that “Christ the coal of fire, whom holy Isaiah foresaw, now rests in the arms of the Theotokos as in a pair of tongs, and He is given to the Elder”.
On this feast, we celebrate as the Theotokos, like tongs, brings her firstborn Son, the fiery divine-and-human coal of our salvation, and places Him in the arms of Simeon the priest in the earthly temple of sacrifice. As Mary does this, we anticipate the time when, instead of a young bull without blemish, Jesus Christ, in the temple of His sinless body (cf. John 2: 19-21), will be offered up on the Cross once and for all as the perfect, complete, and final sacrifice by which sin and death are destroyed. Turning again to the New Testament, we read: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all in the Holy Place.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Metropolitan Archbishop Paul
Primate of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines