The end of the feast days at All Saints Church
February 2nd is the day commonly known as Candlemas. As it falls on a Saturday this year we shall be celebrating it instead on Sunday the 3rd.
Like some other key dates in the Christian calendar this one has a connection with a previous pagan festival. If you are strong on arithmetic you will know that on this day we are exactly halfway between the shortest day (in the UK at least) and the spring equinox. So February 2nd became a kind of festival of light, celebrating the gradual lifting of the darkness of winter and looking forward to the light of spring. The medieval church took up this idea and made it into the day when all the candles to be used in the coming year were brought to the church to be blessed, hence the name Candlemas.
More importantly, though, this is also the day when we mark the feast of the Purification – the event described in St Luke’s Gospel, when Mary and Joseph took their baby to the Jerusalem Temple “to present him to the Lord”. And there they met an old man, Simeon, a faithful servant of God, who recognised that the child was the long awaited Messiah. Simeon’s song, which is still used in evening services and sometimes at funerals, begins “Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace” – Simeon knows that he can now die happy.
So for some churches this feast day is the real end of the Christmas season and the time to put away the crib. Again numbers are significant – forty days have passed since Christmas Day, and now our thoughts begin to turn to the next period of forty days, the season of Lent, which recognises the time Jesus spent in the wilderness.
The theme of light overcoming darkness featured in all our Christmas services, and Candlemas is a helpful reminder that this idea is not just for Christmas. Some of our Christmas visitors were experiencing their own personal darkness and it’s my prayer that the light of Candlemas will offer them continuing hope for the year ahead.
On an entirely different subject, let me add that despite my devotion to my old Labrador, I’ve never really thought of myself as a doggie person. Judging by my Christmas presents, though, others see things differently. I particularly enjoyed the calendar of dog cartoons, which for July proclaims the undeniable truth: “Labradors are born half-trained, spaniels die half-trained”. There’s probably a sermon there somewhere, but that’s for later in the year.
Our services: Holy Communion on Sundays at 9.30 am and 11.00 am and on Wednesdays at 10.00 am. Taizé worship on the following Thursdays at 5.30 pm: 24 January, 14 and 28 February.
Chaplain: The Revd Dr Paula Clifford
Tel: 922 38 40 38 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org