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The scene takes place in the Jerusalem Temple. The Prophet Simeon is shown standing on the right-side of the panel receiving the Christ-child from the arms of the Virgin, who stands opposite St Simeon. Behind Mary we see St Anna the Prophetess and St Joseph. Beneath the infant Christ is a depiction of the altar (or throne), creating a symbolic link between the infant body of Jesus and the Eucharist, which is consecrated in the Orthodox liturgy upon the altar/throne.
The event from the early life of Christ is based on the biblical narrative recorded in the Gospel of Luke:
And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel." (2:26-32)
Anna the Prophetess is also present in the biblical scene and thanks God for giving redemption to Jerusalem (2:36-38).
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple is one of the ‘great feasts’ of the Orthodox liturgical calendar (February 14th). The feast originates from ancient times and is known from at least the fourth century. Its iconographic representation was fully established by the ninth century. The prominence given to St Simeon stems from some ancient liturgical texts where he is described as ‘the greatest of the prophets: more even than Moses...“he who has seen God”'. For this reason he is known in Old Slavonic as Bogoprimyets, the ‘God-Receiver’.