After the severe winters of the past couple of years, there is a general acceptance that we have fared much better this year. However, it is always dangerous to make such speculations and predictions so early i the year – if my own memory serves me right, we have often experienced an extremely cold February and March after a prolonged mild spell! Nevertheless, with the evenings getting brighter and the tentative signs of nature putting forth new life, there is that promise of hope which helps to put a spring in peoples’ steps and lighten their moods.
Our church calendar for February reflects this progression of light and hope. The 1st February, the Feast of St. Brigid (a saint associated with this area of Foxrock/Carrickmines) officially marks the beginning of Spring on our calendars. On 2nd February, we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also known as Candlemas. The celebration of Candlemas originated in the late fifth century as a tribute to the light of God’s glory that was manifested in Christ Jesus. The earliest known observance within the Church was in the year AD 496, during the time of Pope Gelasius. In AD 542, the Emperor Justinian ordained that the Eastern Church celebrate the festival as a thanksgiving for the cessation of plague, which he called Hypapante, or “Meeting”. The name was derived from the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40, where Simeon the priest and Anna the prophetess met the infant Jesus in the temple at the time of his consecration. Simeon’s prophecy declared Jesus to be the Lord’s salvation and “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory to your people Israel.” This passage continues to be the focus of the celebration and as part of the ceremony, candles are blessed, lit and borne in a procession in celebration to Jesus being the light of the world.
In folklore and other pagan traditions, Candlemas often has other associations. For instance, in the UK, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather to come: “If Candlemas is clear and bright / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again.” In the USA, it is often known as Groundhog Day when it is alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day, is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. However, for the Christian, Candlemas remains a day of hope and light. It is a time to honour the Lord as the Light of the World and to remind us that we too have that light within us.
Just under three weeks later, on 22nd February, we enter the season of Lent. This is a season during which the themes of our readings and Services encourage us to reflect and reappraise our lives and prepare ourselves for the events of Holy Week and Easter. Ultimately, it is the message of Easter that governs our whole life and being as Christians. It is the message of Easter that makes sense of Jesus being the true light of the world. And it is the message of Easter that gives us that hope which does not disappoint – even if the chill winds of winter or economic woes blow in our direction. May we ever live in the hope and light which finds its birth in this month of February!
With every blessing.
The Rev’d John Tanner. Tel. 01-289 3154 / 086 302 1376