Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
A light to lighten the Gentiles,
and the glory of thy people Israel.
And as we sing in one of our services:
It is not the elder who holdeth Me but rather I hold him. For he asketh Me to dismiss him.
There are the familiar figures of Joseph the Betrothed and Mary the Theotokos. Joseph is holding two pigeons as the purification sacrifice. The Mother of God is passing the Christ child to Symeon. We see an altar with a Eucharistic chalice and Christ over the altar/chalice, signifying that it is of Him that we partake when receiving the Eucharist. Symeon held the Lord in his arms, and we hold Him within us when receiving divine communion.
This comes from an ancient, Western manuscript. As can be seen here, iconography and religious paintings in the West more closely resembled Byzantine iconography in the early days. An Eastern Orthodox Christian looking at this would notice a few little details are different, but overall, the image “feels” quite familiar. I find it interesting to note that the East has kept the original styling of iconography more intact, particularly in Byzantium.
Place: Regensburg, Bavaria, Germany (Place created)
Date: about 1030 – 1040
Medium: Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
The image is from the J Paul Getty Museum and can be downloaded in full resolution directly from the Museum’s website.