Simeon is the old man who was in the Temple when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus there for the rites prescribed for the child's 40th day. He is sometimes seen in portraits such as the one at right, but more often in narrative images of the Presentation in the Temple. In some portraits he will bear a scroll with the words Nunc dimittis servum, the opening phrase in Latin of the prayer he spoke after holding the child in his arms: "Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:29-32).
The reference to light in that prayer gave rise to the practice of bringing candles to the church on the 40th day after Christmas, which became known as "Candlemas." Another remark of Simeon's, telling Mary that "thy own soul a sword shall pierce," gave rise to the iconography of Our Lady of Sorrows, an image in which Mary's heart is pierced by one or seven swords.