Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, (Luke 2:22-38) is also celebrated on February 2. I don’t think that is an accident. There’s even an ancient Scottish rhyme that incorporates the two traditions, using Candlemas itself as the determiner of a long or short winter.
As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again...
The earliest missionaries to the Celts and other ‘pagan’ peoples wisely used the existing feasts to preach Christ. They took the day of Imbolc and introduced the people to a Greater Light than the sun. Instead of scoffing at the ancient ways, they knew themselves to be “God’s servants, working together; [in] you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:9-11) They understood that “What can be known about God is plain…because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” (Romans 1:19-20)
The Celts with their bonfires and crops and crones were seeking to bring back the light of the sun to a winter dreary world. All the saints who carried the Gospel into the distant, foreign lands brought a new Light. This week’s verse calls us to come to the true Light. We are to live as Christ’s own here and now, “that we like to Thee may be…God in man made manifest.”
Grant us grace to see Thee, Lord,
Mirrored in Thy holy Word;
May we imitate Thee now,
That we like to Thee may be
At Thy great Epiphany;
And may praise Thee, ever blest,
God in man made manifest.
The child remembered on the Feast of Candlemas is “God in man made manifest.” Like the early missionaries and apostles, we need to be open to how we can point the way to Christ by showing how God is present all around. All souls seek God and recognize God sometimes in holy Word, sometimes in nature, sometimes in ways that seem odd, because no one has shown the true way. We can pray, “May we imitate Thee now, and be pure, as pure art Thou,” so that our lives may also be a demonstration of God in the world.
Next week I’ll have a special announcement. See you then.