It’s a busy and exciting Sunday. We will have our annual parish meeting and luncheon immediately following the 10AM service of Holy Eucharist. Apparently, there is also some sort of sporting event going on later in the afternoon, but our business will be finished long before then. Liturgically, there is a lot going on today as well. Today is the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. It’s part of the Church’s fixed Calendar as it always falls exactly 40 days after Christmas. In some Christian traditions, you wouldn’t even think of touching your Christmas decorations to put them away until after this feast.
I’ll talk more about the Biblical origins of the feast and its connections to the themes of Epiphany in my Sunday sermon. However, there is another layer of liturgical interest about this feast. The Presentation of Our Lord is also called Candlemas. This name comes from a late medieval custom of blessing candles on this day for parishioners to use throughout the year. These “holy” candles (holy, just means set apart, remember) were often reserved for use in times of fear or distress. For example, in times of extreme weather, people would bring out the candles blessed at Candlemas and light them as a prayer of safety and for a return of seasonable weather. In Roman Catholic Poland, candles blessed at Candlemas are called “Thunder Candles” for this reason. Modern meteorology may have taught us a lot about the origins and workings of weather, but I will admit to finding some comfort in lighting a candle during a storm, a reminder that Christ is present throughout the storms of life.
So, today’s feast of Candlemas is associated with praying for seasonable weather and looking forward to warmer weather, even as the beginning of February around here usually means a long slog between now and Spring. Mix this with the fact that February 2 is also a “quarter day” which falls, more or less, between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox, a day which is the traditional beginning of a farmer’s yearly work, and you have the formula for the growth of a number of fascinating folk traditions in many cultures around the word that associate Candlemas and the prediction of weather. In England and Scotland, there is a traditional saying: “If Candlemas is fair and clear / There’ll be twa winters in the year.” Of course, the most famous of these folk traditions—at least around here—is Groundhog’s Day, which has its origins in German folk traditions that mix Candlemas with badgers and their kin.
You’ll be relieved to know that we will not be mixing badgers with our liturgical celebrations today (or groundhogs for that matter). We will bless candles, however. Due to our annual meeting, the need for healing prayer, and other pressures on our time at the 10AM Eucharist, the Blessing of the Candles will take place immediately following Morning Prayer which begins at 8:30AM. Everyone is invited to come and participate in this fun, faith-building tradition provided that you stay (or come back) for the annual meeting! If you have to choose to come only to the 10AM service, don’t worry. The pre-blessed candles will be available for everyone at the 10AM service as a reminder that Christ who is the Light of the Word is present with us always.