This Sunday we are creatively moving time and space by celebrating the Presentation of Christ (Candlemas) a few days early. It’s a bit of a temptation in parish ministry in which ‘weekday church’ is not so well attended to move important feast days to Sundays. In that way, more people benefit and become actively involved. So, we have transferred Candlemas (Feb 2nd) to this Sunday so more people can gather together and experience its meaning.
Candlemas is also called the Feast of Meeting indicating how important the early Christian Church perceived the meeting between Jesus and Simeon to be. This was the meeting of Christ and man in God’s holy temple. In the same was, perhaps it would be good to prepare ourselves for our meeting with Christ. Anna and Simeon are our role models. They prepared themselves with years of watching, waiting, hoping mixed in with righteous discipline and devout prayer. How will we prepare ourselves?
Traditionally, the liturgy for Candlemas refers to the ancient rite of blessing of the candles to be used in the church for the next year, a practice dating from the middle of the fifth century. In addition, the liturgy has also generally contained a procession to the church, (or within the church) much as Simeon and Anna came to the temple “to meet the Lord.” On Sunday we will make a short pilgrimage to the font (the place of purification) under the light of the paschal candle.
Ancient Jewish law required that, following the birth of a firstborn male child, the mother must come to the temple after 40 days for purification and for presentation of the child to the Lord. The presentation of Mary’s child, however, was different from most. This was the Christ Child, Jesus, the Saviour, the Messiah who had been promised. And he was recognized as such by the old prophet Simeon, who knew that this child was “a light for revelation to all nations.” Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis is sung at Evensong across the world. It is also said or sung in the funeral liturgy after the commendation. The light of Christ goes before us and beyond us. The church’s candles are a sign of this light. In order to mark the feast of Candlemas, the ancient tradition summons the blessing of all the candles to be used during the year in church.
How will you prepare to meet with the Christ? Will you use the coming season of Lent to help navigate your way to the meeting place at Easter? When we meet with Jesus in prayer we become more truly ourselves. We recognise God’s plan for us and for his world. Come to StM&AA this Sunday to meet with the Lord.
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.
Sunday services: 8am Holy Eucharist; 10am Parish Eucharist (with Godly Play at this Sunday’s Children’s Church); 6.30pm Taizé Prayer.
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