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Friday, February 1, 2013

Candlemas: Am I Seeing the Light?

Photo:Shari Chambers, GNU Free Documentation Lic.
February second is an important day for school teachers and speech therapists.  It's the day we break out the Groundhog Day books, games, and activities. I spent my day with Moonbear's Shadow and groups full of giggly three and four-year-olds today. Groundhog Day preparations remind me of a couple of things: a really horrible Bill Murray movie, (okay, maybe you liked it, but I hated it!), and the fact that February 2 is also Candlemas.

The entwining of Groundhog Day and Candlemas reaches back a few centuries.  It is the result of the merging of European weather lore and Christian customs.  Like many elements of our common history, the two have become tangled a bit.  At any rate, round about the 17th and 18th centuries, there were traditions about bears, badgers, or groundhogs and their reactions to the weather which could be used as predictions about the length of Winter.  There were also Scottish and English customs that held that Candlemas Day was a turning point for the weather.  The perceived relationship is evident in this old Scottish poem:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

Aert de Gelder, Simeon’s song of praise.
The groundhog's appearance is taken pretty seriously by many people each year.  His reaction to his shadow bodes either fair or ill for those who would like to see Spring.  The importance of his showing, though, pales in comparison the the presentation that we Christians recognize and remember on Candlemas day.  It is on this day that we remember the presentation of our Lord in the temple on his fortieth day of life.  It is customary to bring candles to mass on this day, to be blessed, as a sign of Jesus and the illumination that he brought and continues to give. Each year, as Spring dawns, we look forward to longer days and the reappearance of sunshine.  With the dawning of the birth of Our Lord, though, we received the greatest light: The Light of the World.

In contemplating this, I often wonder: Am I allowing His light to guide my path?  Am I seeing...really seeing...the light that He brought into the world?  Am I pausing to soak it in and allow it to fill me with love? Am I allowing His presentation to the world to turn my life-winter around and usher in the spring of grace?  Am I?

Simeon waited his whole life to experience the presentation of our Lord.  Upon seeing him, he had this to say:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
(Book of Common Prayer, 1662)

What a gift we have in Jesus, the Light of the World.  May He shine through us, in spite of our inadequacies, to light dark places and fill the hearts of his children with illumination.
Pax Christi, dear ones,

Experience the Song of Simeon here.

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