Candlemas! as celebrated

“Today is a day of purification, renewal, and hope.”

The Presentation of our Lord commemorates when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem where he was greeted by Simeon and Anna. By the Law every first born male was to be consecrated to the Lord.” This happened 40 days after his birth at Christmas.

Simeon was an old man who was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen Jesus. It had been a long struggle of emptiness. Finally in the Temple, he took him in his arm and blessed him. His song begins “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.” He was set free.

For, like Simeon, we also need to hear and see and touch and feel God’s promise, the promise that God will be with us and for us forever, the promise announced in the birth of that innocent babe. Simeon saw and finally understood what it meant to be released to live and enjoy God’s peace, even in the midst of suffering.

Rembrandt produced at least 4 pieces of art on this event. Here is a discussion on the art

It is one of Luke’s Canticles. He had a point to each of the stories

1. Magnficat, Luke 1:39-56 – Mary – Praise and adoration

2. Benedictus, Luke 1:57-79 – Zechariah – Mercy and compassion

3. Gloria, Luke 2:1-20 – Shepherds – Greatness of God

4. Nunc Dimitis, Luke 2:25-35 – Simeon – Freedom

It is a feast day though it does not often fall on a Sunday. Candlemas occurs at a period between the December solstice and the March equinox, so many people traditionally marked that time of the year as winter’s “halfway point” while waiting for the spring.  

Candlemas is actually a very old feast, celebrated by both the churches of the East and the West, and in some places it is on this day that the creche is finally removed from the church.  The passage from The words in this scripture are often part of Compline

According to some sources, Christians began Candlemas in Jerusalem as early as the fourth century and the lighting of candles began in the fifth century. Other sources say that Candlemas was observed by blessing candles since the 11th century. An early writing dating back to around 380 CE mentioned that a feast of the Presentation occurred in a church in Jerusalem. It was observed on February 14. The feast was observed on February 2 in regions where Christ’s birth was celebrated on December 25.  It is also Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada on February 2.

Candles are blessed on this day (hence the name “Candlemas”). It was the day of the year when all the candles, that were used in the church during the coming year, were brought into church and a blessing was said over them – so it was the Festival Day (or ‘mass’) of the Candles. Candles were important in those days not only because there was no electric lights. Some people thought they gave protection against plague and illness and famine. For Christians, they were (and still are) a reminder of something even more important. Before Jesus came to earth, it was as if everyone was ‘in the dark’.

Pieces of these candles are considered of great efficacy in sickness, or otherwise. When a person is dying, a piece is put in his hand lighted, and thus he passes away in the belief that it may light him to Paradise.

Ceremonies are often held on the eve where people come to the altar to kneel and have their candles blessed. It can be a service rich to the senses – candles and incense, purple vestments changing to white after the procession and of course music with the “Song of Simeon.” Simeon was an old man who was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen Jesus. He took him in his arm and blessed him. His song begins “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace.”

People believe that Candlemas Day predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. The weather proverbs express the idea that a fine bright sunny Candlemas day means that there is more winter to come, whereas a cloudy wet stormy Candlemas day means that the worst of winter is over.

Weather Proverbs

 "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.

Farmer’s Proverbs

‘A farmer should, on Candlemas Day,

Have half his corn and half his hay.’

‘On Candlemas Day if the thorns hang adrop,

You can be sure of a good pea crop.’

Leave a Comment