Candlemas is a beautiful day — the third “Festival of Light” that rounds out our winter celebrations. Our priest, Fr. Wayne McNamara, wrote a helpful explanation of the meaning of Candlemas. He believes it is important for the modern church to recover this feast:
“Candlemas articulates the necessary future of this beautiful Light coming into the world. Our celebrations so far have dwelt on the joyful implications of the Son of God’s arrival, our redemption, salvation, and deliverance. Candlemas reiterates in a pointed way that the coming of the Lord includes difficult things – the persecutions of Jesus in His ministry and the call of the Christ to suffer the Cross. Candlemas rounds out our thoughts regarding the significance of the Word become flesh, and moves us forward to Lent.”
This year, Michelle Abernathy made a lovely coloring page printable based upon the painting displayed in the header for Candlemas: you can download a printable pdf here.
We also have a Candlemas family liturgy:
In the devotional Celebrating the Saints, I loved the reading for Candlemas from a sermon of Guerric of Igny:
“Today as we bear in our hands lighted candles, how can we not fail to remember that venerable old man Simeon who on this day held the child Jesus in his arms — the Word who was latent in a body, as light is latent in a wax candle — and declared him to be ‘the light to enlighten the nations.’ Indeed, Simeon was himself a bright and shining lamp bearing witness to the Light. . .
Behold then, the candle alight in Simeon’s hands. You must light your own candles by enkindling them at his, those lamps which the Lord commanded you to bear in your hands. So come to him and be enlightened that you do not so much bear lamps as become them, shining within yourselves and radiating light to your neighbors. May there be a lamp in your heart, in your hand and in your mouth: let the lamp in your heart shine for yourself, the lamp in your hand and mouth shine for your neighbors. The lamp in your heart is a reverence for God inspired by faith; the lamp in your hand is the example of a good life; and the lamp in your mouth is the words of consolation you speak.”
We also have vigil candle printables from Hearthstone Fables, Sleightholm Folk Art, and Esther Bley Designs. Though I didn’t have time to make a candle from it, you could also use this image from Michelle Abernathy Art for your candle.
Did you know that T.S. Eliot wrote a poem that we can read for Candlemas?
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season has made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.
Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have taken and given honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.
Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.
According to thy word,
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.
You’ll note that it’s based upon the Nunc Dimittis. Anglican Pastor has a tutorial on How to Chant the Nunc Dimittis. (We use a different Psalm tone at our church — #669 in the 1940 Hymnal, as displayed on the page — but obviously, it’s the same canticle).
Do you have any special Candlemas traditions? What other resources would you recommend for learning more and celebrating this feast?