Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon)

views updated


Title (in Latin) of the short hymn sung by Simeon on the occasion of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2.2932). Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognizes in the Infant presented by Mary the long-awaited "Christ of the Lord," that is, the Messiah sent by God (v.26). The Holy Infant is the embodiment of God's salvation; this salvation is universal, that is, destined for all: "prepared before the face of all peoples," Gentiles as well as Jews (v.31; cf. Is 49.6; 60.3). For the Gentiles, salvation is described as a light (cf. Is 42.6) that is revelation of divine truth (v.32). For the Jews, the Savior is "glory" (v.32), in that He is from "the Israelites according to the flesh" (Rom 9.5), and brings salvation "to Jew first and then to Greek [Gentile]" (Rom1.16). The Nunc Dimittis is sung daily at Compline (Night Prayer) in the Catholic Church, and as the second canticle at the Office of Evensong in the Anglican tradition.

Bibliography: r. f. taft, The liturgy of the hours in East and West: the origins of the divine office and its meaning for today, 2nd rev. ed. (Collegeville, Minn. 1993). g. guiver, Company of voices: daily prayer and the people of God (New York 1988). p. f. bradshaw, Daily prayer in the early church: a study of the origin and early development of the Divine Office (London 1981).

[a. le houllier/eds.]