Since Friday when I read this—the Gospel was on the Presentation in the Temple, and Simeon—and again today, Sunday, the same Gospel, this phrase has haunted me, charmed me, teased me. The quotation comes from the reflection by Sr. Ruth Burrows, O.C.D. in the Magnificat magazine. It begins: “When his parents brought the Child Jesus into the Temple, Simeon held out his arms to receive him. An old man stretches out for the Child; the Child comes to him like a bird to its nest.” Here is a picture of what can be, of what should be. He always comes to waiting arms.” [“Simeon’s Waiting Arms, p. 433]
Simeon is an old man. He has been waiting for years, promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Salvation of Israel. Did he know to wait for a child? If not, then what? The tent of his heart has been pulled, stretched, till his very body stretches to receive the Child, the desired One of all the ages, thousands of years. His is the Salvation which Moses did not see, not Abraham, not Elijah, not Jeremiah in his bitter Lamentations or even Isaiah who told us that the virgin would be with child—Emmanuel, God with us.
Waiting in the Temple, when he sees this divine Baby, old man Simeon stretches his very heart, stretches out his arms, longing to enfold the Desired One. And what of Jesus? Like a bird to its nest” the Child nestles in the old man’s arms. To the longing heart, Jesus has come home.
Sister Ruth continues: “Let us ask him to show us how our arms are kept back from stretching towards him. Let us begin all over again to live for him. Simeon’s selflessness is an echo of Jesus’ selflessness. Simeon and Jesus suit one another. Both have one mind, one will. This is what can be, what should be….”
We all know that if our arms are full of packages we cannot stretch them out to receive a baby. No, it is only the empty arms, the stripped heart and will that can stretch out to receive the Christ. But what a delight for the devout who wait like the ten wise virgins—their lamps full of oil for the coming of the bridegroom; for those who pray without ceasing by living with great love in the Temple of their ordinary lives; for those stretched in longing in the tedious, humdrum days of all their years; for those reaching for Jesus who comes with all the enthusiastic joy of a baby cooing and waving his precious little arms, launching Himself “like a bird to its nest” in our hearts.