Presenting the light of the world: Candlemas/Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Today is not only Groundhog Day but also The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, also called Candlemas.  At one time, in the Roman Church, the feast focused on the purification of Mary after the birth of her Son, but that aspect of the day has faded into the background while the Son himself is now brought forth.  Today, it is Jesus who claims the center of the scene, surrounded by both of his parents, all the people in the temple, and particularly by two prophets, one male and one female, Simeon and Anna.

The painting here is by Fra Angelico in one of the monk's cells at San Marco in Florence from the 15th Century. Mary has allowed Simeon to hold Jesus, but you can tell she's a little worried. Joseph stands behind. The prophet Anna is on the right. See how Jesus and Simeon look at each other in all seriousness. And note the adorable little red shoes on Jesus. Also you will see that Jesus's halo has a cross in it, which was typical in religious paintings. This is one of the ways you can tell which person Jesus is! 

For some, Candlemas is the last day of the whole Christmas season.  Sometimes this is accidental - it just takes a long time to put away all the lights and decorations! This year plenty of us kept our decorations up longer than usual. But today's the day to get them down.

In other non-coronavirus years, to commemorate this day in church, all the candles that will be used for the year may be brought forth to be blessed, or people may bring their candles from home, or there may simply be a procession around the church with candles as a visual of the light being presented in the temple. How I wish we could process around the church this year! Yesterday's Feast of Brigid also featured light - the bonfire. This is the true time of "bleak midwinter" - the midpoint between the solstice and the vernal equinox - and so it is hardly surprising that feasts during these days feature light.

Jesus, of course, is represented in the Gospel of John as (among other things) the light of the world, the light to whom John the Baptist testified, the light to the nations as prophesied by Isaiah.  Even the Groundhog observance is connected to light, for the groundhog cannot see his (or her) shadow if there is no sunshine. 

So to commemorate the day at your house, join in praying collect for The Feast of the Presentation:

Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

(BCP 239)