The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel include four hymns of praise that connect the New Testament with the Old Testament. They are: the song of Mary, the song of Zechariah, the song of the angel choir, and the song of Simeon. Each of these songs is an expression of praise to God that he has fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament by sending Jesus.
The Song of Simeon, also called “Nunc Dimittis” (from the Latin for “Now you dismiss”) is traditionally read or sung at Compline (Night Prayers) because it speaks of Simeon’s readiness to gratefully embrace a peaceful end, something that is as good of a prayer at the end of a day as it is at the end of a life.
– adapted from the Prayer Book Society of Canada’s “622”
study lesson “Nunc Dimittis” (Year 1, Lesson #17).
You can see the complete lesson series here.
Below you can hear a choral arrangement of Simeon’s song, composed by William Byrd (1543-1623) and sung by the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge. The arrangement is called “The Great Service: Nunc Dimittis,” and if you scroll further down, you’ll find the text, which is sung in English.
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;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
(Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.)