Crossing Boulevard

with Rev. Rachel


Whoever commissioned “The Presentation at the Temple” asked that the subjects be painted in the likeness of the Bellini family. OR, the artist, Giovanni Bellini decided to have a little fun with the fact that no one had actually seen these biblical characters.

Alas, meet Joseph, in the front. He doubles as a portrait of Bellini's father. The two men on the right are most likely the artist and his brother. Giovanni’s sister and mother (a.k.a. Anna) stand stage left.

The Christ child is wrapped in gauze. Actually, these are the long strips of cloth commonly used, then, to swaddle newborns. Bellini may be inviting us to see at the same time, grave clothes. Corpses too were wrapped in strips of cloth.

A man taking the Venetian art scene by storm depicted Simeon seeing the light. And you know what? I’m not mad at him. I will not call Giovanni Bellini an egomaniac for drawing himself and his world into the scene. Finding ourselves in God’s story: Is that not exactly what we are called to do?

Today (Tuesday February 2) is Candlemas. Some congregations keep this feast by blessing all of the candles that are used over the course of the year. They recall the bittersweet moment Simeon recognizes both light for the world and the pain that would pierce she who birthed the light.

Simeon had long hoped fervently, feverishly, for the lifting up of his nation. It had not occurred to him that God could answer that prayer by coming for all people. “My eyes have seen your salvation (v.30),” and I am seeing salvation differently.

What would it take for us to rejoice in what God is doing for other lives—lives we don’t tend to regard as tied up with our own? A renewed mind? Prayer? Time spent in the presence of a different crowd? Celebrating Candlemas? I do not know.

I do know that God’s story is still being written and that there are Simeons among us catching glimpses of the next chapter and daring to say that what they see is good. You don’t have to be a renaissance man and you don’t have to amass candles to celebrate God’s expansive grace. Look for It. Name it. The praise will follow.

UncategorizedRachel May