Candlemas Introduction

February 2

When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22

Happy Candlemas!  Before I can tell you what this holiday is I have to go back to when it starts.  Long ago, to mark the changing of the seasons the Church instituted the Ember Days.  Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, close to or before the change of the season.  Ember Days are the days of preparation, marked with prayer, fasting or abstinence.  This, like most of the medieval holidays, therefore most of my holiday blogs, Christianity no longer really practices.  I say go for it!  The Spring Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday before The Feast Candlemas.

Personally, I have never found fasting to be a helpful prayer tool.  It, for me, is distracting.  I do not think of God, I think I have a pounding headache and I feel sick.   Moreover, God does not want you to suffer, He wants you to accept His Love.  Christ joined humanity to lift us from our suffering, not to make it greater.  When He comes in Judgment no one can says He does not know our suffering, for He has suffered for us and with us.  Why increase it?  Everything that we put up with, He has put up with.  So fast and abstinence or not, up to you.  Spiritual preparation is the real key, however you choose to do it.

But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come. Matthew 24:43-44

Now that you are spiritually prepared for the season of Candlemas, what is it?  Candlemas is the celebration of when Jesus was presented at the temple.

When the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were fulfilled, they brought him up to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

“Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Joseph and his mother were marveling at the things which were spoken concerning him, and Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

There was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (she was of a great age, having lived with a husband seven years from her virginity, and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who didn’t depart from the temple, worshiping with fastings and petitions night and day. Coming up at that very hour, she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who were looking for redemption in Jerusalem.

When they had accomplished all things that were according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. The child was growing, and was becoming strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. Luke 2:22-40

This idea of purification and light have become the cornerstone of the celebration customs throughout the world.  In the Middle Ages and up until comparatively recently, candles to represent “the light of revelation” were brought to Church on Candlemas.  Some churches have now revived this tradition. Yay! These candles were blessed so that the use of them throughout the year would be a constant reminder of Christ.  Since this is also a feast of purification “purification rites required by the Law of Moses” there is also the tradition of Spring Cleaning, for this is also the first day of spring and by extension the start of the renewal.  This renewal comes soon in the form of Lent but is represented on Candlemas by bear and snowdrops.

Bears, as representatives of the resurrection and the life of the world to come, were watched closely in early Christian times.  Bears are strong and vital, but then they die and are buried (go deep underground in caves to hibernate) and then with the coming of Spring (the coming of Life Everlasting) they emerge renewed and ready to live again.  Sadly, the only remnant of this celebration of purification, light and renewal is “Groundhog day”.  But we are Christians so we rejoice in Candlemas!  Spring is on its way!

The other symbol of Candlemas is snowdrops.  Snowdrops are flowers that are the first to bloom.  Sometimes even blooming up through the snow in little white drop flowers, hence the name.  Snowdrops have an apocryphal story themselves.

The first winter when Adam and Eve were in the world was a hard one.  They had never seen the world die and grow cold.  As food became scarce and the world colder with January, Eve began to despair that life would never return to the world, that they would have to live in death until they finally succumbed to it themselves.  And she wept for all that had happened.

God wanted her to know that this suffering was only temporary, that He still loved her and that there was life to come.  But she was in such despair that she could no longer hear Him.  So He called St. Michael and told him how much Eve suffered and asked him to do something for her, something that would let her know she was not forgotten, that she was loved, that suffering is temporary, to do something to make her happy.  St. Michael came to Eve but she could not see or hear him either, so he saw where her tears were landing in the snow and he caused a pure white flower to come up and bloom.  And her tears turned to joy and she went off to bring Adam to see this wonderful gift.

 

Peace be with you.

drj

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