February is here and the celebrations of Christmas and New Year are dwindling in our memories, as are perhaps all our New Year resolutions.
On the second of February we celebrate the feast of Candlemas or as it is more formally known ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.’ This marks forty days since the birth of Jesus and is when the season of Christmas finishes in the church calendar.
Mary and Joseph take Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem so that Mary could be ‘cleansed’. Levitical law required this following the birth of a boy.
‘The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel, saying:
If a woman conceives and bears a male child, she shall be ceremonially unclean for seven days…4Her time of blood purification shall be thirty-three days; she shall not touch any holy thing, or come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification are completed. 6When the days of her purification are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb in its first year for a burnt-offering, and a pigeon or a turtle-dove for a sin-offering. 7He shall offer it before the Lord, and make atonement on her behalf;’
Thankfully, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, these laws have been fulfilled and when the curtain in the Temple was torn in two we were given free access to God without the need for sacrifices.
When Simeon, who the Holy Spirit had revealed would not die until he had seen the Messiah, saw Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the Temple, he took Jesus in his arms and said those words we now call the Nunc Dimitis;
‘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.’
Luke 2. 22-38
This image of Christ as the Light also led to this festival being called ‘Candlemas’.
It was, and still is in some churches, the day of the year when all the candles to be used in church during the rest of the year where blessed.
Candles where very important as they were the only source of light for most people and we are still comforted by them today. They are important to us today in worship and in prayer. When we light the candle before collective worship in our schools we say ‘Jesus is the light of the world’ to remind us that Jesus is that pure light that shines in darkness.
‘Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”’
As usual there are some folk tales about Candlemas day and I will leave you with two of them;
‘If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.
If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter’s to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter’s gane at yule.’
‘A famer should, on Candlemas day,
Have half his corn and half his hay.’
Reverend Chris Hodgkins. (Assistant Curate of G7 Benefice)
The Collect for The Presentation of Christ at the Temple;
Lord Jesus Christ,
light of the nations and glory of Israel:
make your home among us,
and present us pure and holy
to your heavenly Father,
your God, and our God.