Sally has offered us a choice of questions this week - but since one set concerns the Superbowl, which is so American I'm not even quite sure what sport it refers to, I'm happy to go with the other. Indeed, having used a Candlemass focus for our Ecumencial ministers' prayer time at lunchtime today, it's very much at the forefront of my mind. (In case you're interested, I talked about the feast, used some material from Hay and Stardust and - this is the good, if obvious, bit - invited each person there to light a candle from the large central "Christ candle" to represent their own church...underlining the one light in which we try to walk. It worked a treat!)
So - in answer to Sally, and by way of wishing her Happy Birthday for tomorrow as well...
Candlemas/ Imbloc/ Groundhog day/ St Brigid's day- all of these fall on either the 1st or 2nd February. 1. Do you celebrate one or more of these?
We most certainly do…For us, Candlemas (aka The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple) is the final element of Christmas. Our crib has stayed up in church til this weekend, and we have one at home too but on Sunday they will be put away as we look away from Christmas and towards Lent and Passiontide....As we hear the story of Christ's Presentation, and his recognition by Simeon and Anna, we remember not just the joy with which Simeon greeted the "light to lighten the Gentiles" but also the foreboding of his words to Mary
"And a sword shall pierce your own soul also". It's one of those hinge points in the liturgical year.
In the medieval church, this was the festival when all the candles to be used for the rest of the year would be blessed. Today, the Church of England “Common Worship – Times and Seasons” has a lovely provision for marking this transition time. At the end of the Eucharist, during the final hymn each member of the congregation will be given a lighted candle - then the clergy will make our way to the font while the choir sings Simeon’s song, the Nunc Dimittis…Once there we are all brought to focus on our baptism, and recommissioned to bear the light of Christ into the world.
3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant?
Significant, right enough. Here’s part of the liturgy, just to reinforce this
Father, here we bring to an end our celebration
of the Saviour’s birth.
Help us, in whom he has been born,
to live his life that has no end.
Here we have offered the Church’s sacrifice of praise.
Help us, who have received the bread of life,
to be thankful for your gift.
Here we have rejoiced with faithful Simeon and Anna.
Help us, who have found the Lord in his temple,
to trust in your eternal promises.
Here we have greeted the light of the world.
Help us, who extinguish [bear] these candles,
never to forsake the light of Christ.
Here we stand near the place of baptism.
Help us, who are marked with the cross,
to share the Lord’s death and resurrection.
Here we turn from Christ’s birth to his passion.
Help us, for whom Lent is near,
to enter deeply into the Easter mystery.
Here we bless one another in your name.
Help us, who now go in peace,
to shine with your light in the world.
Thanks be to God.
4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you?
I love them….
I love the varied focus they give to the Church’s year, the way that each one has something to teach us, the way that we find against all expectations that we have something in common with these brothers and sisters in Christ across space and time…because their stories are so human, that again and again I'm forced to reassess the potential for holiness in the most unlikely people around me ;-)
5. Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration.
Eeek - there are so many to choose from, even with a calendar that is less generous with its commemorations than that of the Roman Catholic church (which, I was told in my childhood, has a saint or two for each single day of the year)...
Common Worship has a collection of "Lesser festivals and commemorations" which features some dear friends - George Herbert, Lancelot Andrewes, John Donne, Bonnhoeffer....a goodly fellowship indeed. As for "Official Saints" - I love St Cecilia, for the music of course – all those wonderful concerts I’ve sung in while in Cambridge and London specially…And Lucy for the candles and my lovely lovely daughter….but I was baptised on St Francis day, and have felt that this allowed me an offical sanction for my lifelong passion for animals…
My two new churches are dedicated to St Matthew and All Saints, so there will be lots of scope for creative celebrations in the years ahead I hope.