This Thursday - February 2nd - is the feast of 'Candlemas' .
Ron Dicianni 'Simeons Moment'
This little known , but delightful celebration is a feast of light , commemorating the presentation of Jesus as a baby, by his parents at the temple in Jerusalem. In the gospel story in Luke chapter two Mary and Joseph attend the temple as required by law to offer sacrifices. As they enter the temple they are met by Simeon, an elderly and devout man who has been promised by God that he would not die until he has seen the Messiah. It a dramatic and intense moment as Simeon takes the baby in his arms and prophecies.
Imagine holding the infant Son of God in your arms.
His parent are amazed and probably not a little disconcerted. To add to their perplexity they are approached by Anna, a prophet and widow who spends her days in the temple. She also recognises the baby for who he is.
The celebration of Candlemas includes three symbols; time, light and music.
God's timing uniquely perfect and beautifully executed. Simeon had waited a long time , faithful and patient , to see God's salvation. Now he would die in peace and confidence. Candlemas falls precisely between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Just as the days are beginning, ever so gradually, to lengthen and small quiet signs of spring discreetly emerge we celebrate the light of the world publicly recognised. We move from winter towards spring, from Christmas towards Easter.
‘The snowdrop, in purest white array, first rears her head on Candlemas day’
February is the month when glimpses of the sun and early flowers give hope for the spring after the bleak days of January. Snowdrops flower at this time of year and are sometimes called Candlemas Bells. The tiny infant who was taken to the temple that day is a glimpse of the glory of God's salvation - for both Israel and all the nations.
It is predominantly a feast of light. Simeon's words remind us that Jesus is ' a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel'
Some churches hold candle lit processions into darkened church buildings and the candles to be used during worship for the rest of the year are blessed; this is where the name Candlemas comes from.
The words of Simeon are known as the Nunc Dimitis; they have been set to music by a variety of composers. The following links take you two lovely but very different recordings.
The first is Aled Jones and Ben Crawley singing Geoffrey Burgon's setting