From the Vicar
Candles are very popular in the home. You only have to go to a big shopping mall to see how many shops sell them in all different shapes, smells and patterns. We are quite fascinated with them, the light and feel they bring. People put them round the bath, in fireplaces, on the table, in jars, in ornaments on shelves and in lanterns on the floor. We love to create a comforting atmosphere in the home.
At the start of February is the Feast of The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also known as Candlemas. Traditionally Christians said their last farewells to the Christmas season on Candlemas, 2 February. This is exactly 40 days after Christmas Day itself. 40 is a very significant number in the bible. In New Testament times 40 days old was an important age for a baby boy, it was when they made their first ‘public appearance’. Mary as a proud and loving mum of Jesus went with Joseph to ‘present him to the Lord’. Thus we have the Festival of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
So where does the Candlemas bit come in? Jesus is described in the New Testament as the Light of the World, and early Christians developed the tradition of lighting many candles in celebration of this day. Thus creating not just atmosphere but a symbol of this wonderful moment where the child, Jesus was revealed.
The Church created a custom of blessing the year’s supply of candles for the church on this day of Candlemas (candle- mass) The story that describes the meaning in this day can be found in Luke 2:22-40. Simeon and Anna have waited a very long time to finally meet Jesus.
Simeon’s great declaration of faith is of course found in the words of the Nunc Dimittis, a song you will hear sung or said in the Office of Evening Prayer in the West. You might also hear these words at a funeral after the committal. The Nunc Dimittis was first used on Candlemas during the distribution of candles before the Eucharist.
The words were first spoken by Simeon, on realising who Jesus was in the temple he declared, “my eyes have seen your salvation … a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel”
So in the dark months ahead we can all light a candle and ask for his protection. We gather together in church to banish away the winter blues, light a special candle and feel his comfort and strength that will see us all through. As we journey towards Lent, from the crib to the cross we shall behold his glory and understand the hope of our salvation.
God bless you and keep you safe in his care always.
Rev. Mell Jemmett
Visitors light candles in an Orthodox church by the sea in Cyprus