Look kindly, Jesus, where we come,
New Simeons, to kindle,
Each at your infant sacrifice his
own life’s candle.
(from Thomas Merton, “The Candlemas Procession,” 1943)
Tomorrow is Candlemas, one of my favorite feast days, when we remember Mary and Joseph taking the infant Jesus to the Temple for the sacrifice required by the law to redeem a first born son. As my Day Job is very busy at the moment, I am going to cheat a little and borrow a couple of paragraphs from an article on Candlemas which I wrote last year, for the Feb 2006 issue of bennu magazine (www.bennumagazine.com):
… How, then, can we prepare to deepen our participation in the mystery of Candlemas? When visiting an Orthodox church some years ago, the priest handed me a candle and spoke to me about the need to always bring a sacrifice when entering a temple. Just as the wax is sacrificed to the flame, so we willingly offer the very substance of ourselves, that the Light may burn more brightly in this world. We may not have much to offer, outwardly. Mary and Joseph were only able to bring the sacrifice of the poor – two turtledoves. However, inwardly, Mary offered herself, with a willingness to participate in the renewal of all things, even though her heart would be pierced in the process. Further, the Divine sacrifices itself to appear in the world of human limitation. If the language of sacrifice proves difficult, due to the ways in which it has been abused in our culture, one could also see these events through the lens of boundless generosity arising from universal compassion.
… (large snip)
The Light born at the dark of the year (for us in the northern hemisphere) is growing – in the world and in us. Winter is half gone. It is the time of Brigid the divine midwife, who stands between the seasons, helping to bring newly planted seeds to a springtime birth. In a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition, if a groundhog sees his shadow, and is thus frightened back into his den on Candlemas, there will be six more weeks of winter. Will we be frightened by the shadow side of ourselves, or will we fearlessly grow into the light and warmth provided by the sun, which ever immolates itself to give life to our planet?
As the Christ says in the Gospel of Thomas: “Within a person of light there is light, and that one lights the whole world.” (Logion 24)
May each of you have a luminous Candlemas.