On the last Sunday of January, we celebrate Candlemas. On this day we remember how Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time, to present their first-born child to God.
Of all the gifts the Jewish people received from God, they always dedicated to him their first, not their last. This is a good principle. Our expression of thanks to God is not an offering of our leftovers. Our prayers are not a last resort. Our charitable giving is not based on what we’ve got left at the end of the month, but ‘first things first’. God deserves the best.
In the temple, Joseph and Mary met two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who each pronounced a blessing over the baby Jesus. Simeon called him ‘a light to enlighten the gentiles’. Light is an important theme for Candlemas. Because Christmas is celebrated around the winter solstice, Candlemas coincides with the pagan Celtic festival of Imbolc, which sits between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Imbolc is an ancient celebration of light, fertility and the first signs of spring; but it is also the occasion for spring cleaning and clearing, inside and outside the house. On this day our ancestors cleaned the hearth, and cleared any dead growth from the previous season, to expose the soil to the warmth of the spring sun.
‘The world in which the baby Jesus arrives needs a good scrub too. So much becomes clear later in Jesus’ life. The light of the gentiles will grow up to become a troublemaker; his light will expose the dirt.
The feast of Candlemas reminds us that we too cannot enjoy his light without also welcoming the purification it brings. God’s light exposes the clutter in our hearts and minds. Perhaps an inner Imbolc should be undertaken, in order for the sun to warm us into fertile growth again.
Love and prayers