From the Very Rev. Kristina Maulden
The Importance of Light
This Sunday, Feb 2nd, is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Luke describes this event as a combination of the Jewish practice of the purification rite of women with the ceremony of the redemption of the first born. 40 days after giving birth, women were required to come to the Temple to be ritually purified. And, the first born child was redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb or if the parents were poor, 2 pigeons. This practice can be traced directly back to Moses and the Book of Exodus. At the time of Moses, the descendants of Abraham were trapped in slavery to the Pharaohs of Egypt. Moses was called by God to be the voice of freedom and to negotiate their release from bondage. Pharaoh was not agreeable. Before Moses was able to get the people out of Egypt, the land was visited by 10 plagues, brought on by Pharoah’s hardness of heart. The last, was the passing over of the Angel of Death. The Angel of Death took the first born of all the families that did not have the mark of the blood of the lamb on their doorways. Those Hebrew families who had sacrificed a lamb and marked their doors were spared. Many centuries later, the people still commemorated this part of their story. So this baby, Jesus, was redeemed in accordance to the Law of Moses. And, would, in turn, be the Lamb who would redeem the world.
In many countries, Christmas does not end until February 2nd. So, if you still have not put away the Christmas tree, there is historical precedent to fall back on. According to Christian tradition, on February 2, all the candles in the house are lit and illuminate the manger scene. This was to emphasize the connecting between Jesus as the bearer of light to the world. Another part of a Candlemas celebration, includes a call for followers to bring to church any candles that are used at home to be blessed. During the Middle Ages, this early February feast had a greater practical significance. It was a way to mark the beginning of the end to the cold and darkness of winter. And, for people who had no central heating, there was a heavy reliance on candles as the source of their light and warmth. Here the physical, practical world was tightly intertwined with the spiritual. For those of us who are used to the convenience of electricity, this facet of Candlemas might not be as important to us. But, on occasion, when the power goes out and we see only by candlelight, think on these things.
This Sunday, we will celebrate Candlemas at the 9:15am and at 11am with a special procession at the start of the service. Members of the congregation will have candles, unlit at first, to help light the way. As we light these candles, or if you light a candle in your home on Sunday, think of the candles back on Christmas Eve. We sang Silent Night, Holy Night, and the faces of all those around us were glowing in the light of the flame and of God’s love. All these nights are holy and sacred were we love God and love each other.