Since reverting back to my Catholic Faith, this is one of my favorite feasts. First of all, I am a sucker for candles and candle light. I used to make candles when I was a kid. I just love the look and feel of candlelight! Secondly, it is a feast of hope. It comes halfway between winter and spring. It gives me hope that the long cold days are almost over. Thirdly, I love the connection to Jesus through his Mother Mary. I have found this connection to be even more poignant since the loss of one of my own children. Every birth and new life is full of joys and sometimes sorrows. Even our Blessed Mother experienced this.
Below are some things I have written in years past. As a re-vert to Catholicism there are many things that I have tried to learn or re-learn on my own and I continue to learn!
Candlemas is the time of year that the garlands from Christmas are taken down, because they are dry enough to burn. I have an artificial garland but I took it down a week or so ago. It seemed kind of heavy and was collecting dust. But I do still have the garland up over the fireplace with the Christmas star still hanging because I hate putting ALL of the Christmas stuff away all at once! But I love having a symbolic, liturgical, historical, and practical reason to do so!
It's also Groundhog's Day tomorrow. A great day to watch the Bill Murray movie on Groundhog Day
I love the fact that he had as many chances as he needed to make his life meaningful and worthwhile. What a gift that was! So if you haven't seen that movie, I recommend it!
On a personal note - tomorrow is my best friend's birthday.She is always there for me, always. Happy Birthday T!
February 2 is an ancient, special day as it marks the halfway mark between the winter solctice and the spring equinox. (Which is why the other holiday - Ground Hog Day is also celebrated on this day!)
It also is a very scriptural day for all Christians. It is the 40th day after Christ's birth and the time for Mary, as a good Jewish mother, to be purified.
Chapter 12 of Leviticus is the law concerning purification of women:
And if her hand ind not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtle doves, or two yhoung pigeons, one for holocaust and another for sin; and the priest shall pray for her and so she shall be cleansed.
Note the significance again of the lamb, with Jesus as the Lamb of God.
The ceremony cleansed ceremonial uncleanness, not sin. The prescribed period before the ceremony signified that the mother was leaving a period of weakness and recuperation and utter dependence on God (The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season). As anyone who has ever had a baby can attest rest after childbirth is very important and I suppose one could argue even prescribed by God. Funny that our culture tends to honor the "drop that baby in the field and pick up the plow again" attitude instead of calm and rest.
All of the ceremonies before mass and during mass speak of Light, because Jesus is the light of the world, People come to mass and candles are distributed and blessed.
I love the point Mary Reed Newland makes in her book, The Year & Our Children: Catholic Family Celebrations for Every Season that the old Mass of Purifiation is an "eloquent meditation for mothers and wives, occupied so constantly with washing, whether their laundry of their children, their dishes or their floors. These are purifications. Malachias has said that Christ will purify us the same way, refining us by the fire of our trials, purifying us of self-love by the washing of our wills. He would have us in the wedding garments, clean and bright."
In the past we have had candlelight dinner for my family and used our good china as well, but this year we are more harried - our oven is broken and the kids have choir practice. Nonetheless I an having a candle blessed today and will have that lit on the table, as well as tapers in the candle holders Mr. Pete's god father made so many years ago.
I found this fascinating article on today's feast of Candlemass!
In modern life many people may not be aware that on February 2 we celebrate an ancient feast, common to the Church of both East and West, which is mentioned clearly in Leviticus and Luke.
February 2 is "Candlemas" in many churches and is the day for observing the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of Jesus as well as the presentation of Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem (see Luke 2:21-40). The day has pagan roots and was a Christian adaptation of the older practices for this midwinter festivity from which we get our "Groundhog Day." Since the presentation was also the purification of Mary (40 days after childbirth), the church developed ritual practices known as the "Churching of Women" (see additional notes at bottom of page) or "Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth." The following is an explanation
Seven days after Christmas, January 1, is the feast of our Lord's circumcision
Thirty three days after that, February 2 is the feast of his being offered in the Temple, the purification of the Virgin Mary. So Candlemass is fourty days after the birth of Jesus.
This day also used to have great significance in the rural calendar, because the date lies half way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, so it marks the day upon which winter is half over! . It is a time of the year which naturally forms a transition period in winter - there is a sense in which thank God we are moving on into brighter and better days.
Like many Christians festivals, including Christmas itself, Candlemas has roots which lie deep in pagan roots and an understanding of nature.
Imbolc was an important day in the Celtic calendar. (pronounced 'im'olk' also known as Oimelc) comes from an Irish word that was originally thought to mean 'in the belly' although many people translate it as 'ewe's milk' (oi-melc). As winter stores of food were getting low Imbolc rituals were performed to harness divine energy that would ensure a steady supply of food until the harvest six months later.
Like many Celtic festivals, the Imbolc celebrations centred around the lighting of fires. Fire was perhaps more important for this festival than others as it was also the holy day of Brigid (also known as Bride, Brigit, Brid), the Goddess of fire, healing and fertility. The lighting of fires celebrated the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months. For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.
As Candlemas traditions evolved, many people embraced the legend that if the sun shone on the second day of February, an animal would see its shadow and there would be at least six more weeks of winter. Bears or badgers are watched in some European countries, but the German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania found an abundance of groundhogs and late in the 19th century a few residents in Punxsutawney began celebrating the groundhog as weather prophet. So we have Groundhog Day.
You may know the rhyme
If Candlemas day be sunny and bright,
Winter again will show its might.
If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey,
Winter soon will pass away. (Fox version)
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again. (Traditional)
But this time of year should not be a pagan festival it is a Christian feast which we celebrate and it can be traced to at least 543. The Feast of Lighted candles is mentioned by Bede and St. Eligius, who was bishop of Noyon from 640 to 648. The feast quickly became popular, the day is set aside to commemorate the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus has been circumcised, marking him as a member of God's chosen people, through whom world salvation was to be achieved.
The background to the passage from Luke today is seen in the Book of Leviticus Chapter 12:1.
Other interesting links for the day.
All my Candlemas Links on Diigo!