Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Candlemas: A Light to Enlighten the Nations

Isn't it fitting that Candlemas falls during the Season After Epiphany? It seems even in the dark, cold days of winter we cannot forget we have been blessed by the Light of Christ.

The Church Year has us pause today to remember one of those few moments of Christ's infancy recorded in Scripture: The Presentation of the Jesus at the Temple. Once Christmas is over it is easy to hurry past the early days of Jesus life to his ministry, but there is a significance for us here. This day records not only Mary and Joseph's fulfillment of Old Testament law, rooting Christ in time and place and faith, but we also see even in Jesus very first public appearance the promise of salvation is given. When Simeon, who believed the promise that he would see the Messiah before his death, takes Jesus into his arms, he proclaims
“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

His prayer has become The Song of Simeon or Nunc Dimittis which is used in the bedtime prayer service of Compline and often at Christian funeral services. Hear it sung by the King's College Choir at Cambridge or this one in English.

Lord, you now have set your servant free *
to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, *
whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, *
and the glory of your people Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The Gospel Reading for the feast is Luke 2:22-40 which we will read during a dinner of the traditional Crepes. The kids are so excited! Our favorite recipe  (and the photo) is from this site.  I found that the feast and even the pancakes date back to the fourth century.

I have set aside coloring pages from our Advent coloring books but here is one for free Coloring Page of Simeon and Anna.

Though much has been done to restore the focus of this feast day back to Christ, the tie to the Blessing of Candles still is practiced.

I have grown in my appreciation for candles as part of my religious experience. Each Sunday, the Light proceeds into the church at the beginning of the service and then departs at the end. And to follow this theme in our home, when a candle is lit, it is a physical and sensorial signal that something holy is about to begin. We use candles during Advent to count the days until Christmas. We use candles for quiet times in our peace chair, an idea I found here. We, of course, light a candle whenever we celebrate a Feast of the Church. But also on a normal night when we are able to all sit together around a table to eat, my husband often leads us in the prayer service for the Order for Evening (Vespers) and when the candles are lit, he prays

The Service also includes the beautiful  Phos hilaron or O Gracious Light   

O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!

Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices,
O Son of God, O Giver of Life,
and to be glorified through all the worlds. 

And it seems then I am able to enter into the present moment and appreciate our meal. I stop being the busy mother hovering over food and children and actually enjoy the gifts of the Giver of Life as we sing and pray and eat with happy voice.

And so, Candlemas' blessing of the candles is also an important part of the church year for me now too. And we will stop again to talk of what these candles mean, why we light them, and to pray

Lord Jesus Christ, pour forth your blessing on these candles and sanctify
them by the light of your grace. May our hearts be illuminated by your light,
may our actions be guided by your light, so that when our lives here are
finished, we may come into the eternal presence of your redeeming light. We pray
this is the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Further ideas:
Kerry at A Ten O'Clock Scholar also has a great post on this Principal Feast of the Anglican Church!

The VonTrapp's Family Tradition
A Carnival of Ideas and Reflections

A family's shadow-box dramatization
Wiki background

This is mostly a repost from last year but I think no one was reading at that point yet anyway! How cool that I've been blogging for a year now. I had started the blog as a way to record and return to what our family does to follow the church year and it will now start to be that very thing! And even better I've been able to meet so many wonderful readers and bloggers! Thank you for following and for your kind emails and comments. A blessed Candlemas!


Amy said...

...and you do a beautiful job!

Amy said...

Thanks Amy. So kind of you to comment!


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