On February 2nd (or a Sunday close to it) we celebrate Candlemas, The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. This is one of the most ancient of Christian festivals, and a description exists of the feast in the fourth century. A special feature of Candlemas is the blessing and carrying of lit candles, celebrating Christ, ‘a light to enlighten all peoples.’
In this passage the tenth century Anglo Saxon abbot Ælfric of Eynsham describes the day:
Be it known to everyone that it is appointed in the ecclesiastical observances, that we on this day bear lights to church, and let them there be blessed: and that we should go afterwards with the light among God’s houses, and sing … Though some cannot sing, they can, nevertheless, bear the light in their hands; for on this day was Christ, the true light, borne to the temple, who redeemed us from darkness and bringeth us to the Eternal Light.
Lighting candles as a sign of prayer or hope is at the heart of several festivals of world faith – Diwali, Chanukah, Candlemas.
Ælfric reminds us there is even more to celebrate. In his day people took light, their own light, to church to be blessed by God who is light, and then the people were to take their light out ‘among God’s houses’ singing (if they can!) and sharing the light with others.
Encouraged by the example of Mary and Joseph taking their child to the temple, and by Ælfric’s words, may we come with our ‘light’ to be blessed by Christ, the true light, and go out taking joy and light for our world.