Scripture recounts role of numbers

A few years ago, a drama titled “Numb3rs” aired on one of the major TV networks.

This series lasted six years and in its first four seasons it was the most popular show airing on Friday evenings.

The show followed a FBI special agent and his mathematical genius brother, who helped solve crimes.

Each week the TV show began with the following introduction:

“We all use math every day — to predict weather, to tell time, to handle money. Math is more than formulas or equations — it’s logic, it’s rationality, it’s using your mind to solve the biggest mysteries we know.”

When we speak of “biggest mysteries” it is indeed appropriate, and not a stretch, to include “mysteries” of faith when referring to numbers.

If we look at Holy Scripture we encounter numbers on many occasions.

For example: in the very beginning of Scripture, the account of the creation, we have the number 6 — equating to number of “days” God took to create the “heavens and the earth.” He of course then “rested on the seventh.”

Another popular number is 3. What naturally comes to mind with this number is the three persons of the Holy Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit or even the Resurrection of Our Savior on the third day.

Numbers are also significant in the theology of some Christian traditions.

The number 7, for many, signifies the seven sacraments of the faith. Or 12 represents the 12 Apostles.

So we see numbers do represent and bring to mind some of the “biggest mysteries” of the faith.

In Holy Scripture, and in Orthodox Christian tradition, one specific number, the number 40, has a significant place.

The 40-year wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt; the 40-day sojourn in the wilderness by Jesus prior to beginning His ministry; and the 40 days between Our Lord’s Resurrection and His Ascension into Heaven are only a few examples.

In the Orthodox Church the number 40 once again comes to mind on Sunday.

Feb. 2 is 40 days after the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior and is celebrated as the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple.

In recalling the events of this feast 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph carried the child to the temple that they might present Him to the Lord.

They also took with them the usual offering of the poor — two turtle doves — according as the law prescribed.

At this time, there was living at Jerusalem a man named Simeon. He was a very pious man, and God had revealed to him that he should not die until he had seen the Savior.

When Mary and Joseph entered the temple, Simeon, led by the Holy Spirit, also entered. Seeing the child Jesus, he took Him in his arms and exclaimed: “Lord, now lettest Thou they 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; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.”

After this, Simeon blessed Mary and warned her that a sword of sorrow should one day pierce her heart.

While Simeon was speaking, a prophetess named Anna, a widow of 84, and who stayed at the temple serving God with fasting and prayer night and day, entered. She also took the Child in her arms, and praising God, went forth, spreading the good tidings to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel.

After they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, Mary and Joseph returned with Jesus into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth, and the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the Grace of God was upon Him.

In the Orthodox tradition this Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, known by many as “Candlemas,” is marked by the blessing of candles.

This blessing is done to commemorate the words of the elder Simeon who was permitted by God to recognize the Savior and to proclaim Him to the world as “a light to lighten the Gentiles: and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.”

The Rev Andrew Nelko is pastor of St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Campbell.

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