Of the great works of art that have most moved me, Rembrandt’s 1669 “Simeon’s Song of Praise” ranks highest. Here is illumination – portrait of an elderly, faithful, praying man who has yearned for personal and corporate peace throughout his long life, holding in his arms (though, more accurately, the child rests – somewhat precariously – on his outstretched arms) the answer to his prayer.
What Simeon embraces is a tiny, presently inarticulate human person out of whom, as from all humankind – it quickly dawns on him – light shines from the inside out, albeit that many are simply too distracted to recognize it, and who, in the course of long lives, too often shade their own inner light, let alone that of infants, by their bushels of words and acquiescence to the alarming and demanding lights of external cares.
Here, in this exquisite portrait, light meets light. Warm light. Standing before the work one recognizes Rembrandt’s inordinate brilliance. One glimpses what his inward vision saw so clearly and brushed onto canvas so accurately – light around subjects that comes from within them, not from without.
Here is recognition that at the heart of every single human being in earth and in the heavens is something infinitely greater than humankind ordinarily dares to imagine. The vulnerable Divine. Peace. Candlemas light.