Candlemas 2018

Today marks the half-way point of winter in the northern hemisphere. By this time we really notice the hours of daylight getting longer, the snowdrops and aconites flowering in response and green shoots coming up from the dark earth.

So it makes sense on 2nd February to celebrate Candlemas, a feast of light with focus on the true Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

Candlemas is also called the Presentation of our Lord. It is based on the story from Luke 2: 22 - 40. That account from Luke's Gospel tells how 40 days after Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple in Jerusalem for Mary's purification rituals and to present her son as the law required.  There they meet 2 faithful old people, Simeon and Anna who had longed and prayed for the promised Saviour of their people. The image that accompanies this post is a 12th century artist's imaginative and devotional portrayal of that story.

Both Simeon and Anna would have been familiar with Ezekiel’s vision of God’s glory, shining so radiantly in a restored Temple, it would bring light to all peoples. Then one day, after all that patient waiting, not only of Simeon and Anna, but of their ancestors for hundreds of years before them, along came an ordinary couple with a 40-day old baby. That would have been a common sight, but when Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms, he saw God's salvation.

Simeon praised God in words known to many Christians as the ‘Nunc Dimittis’. It expresses Simeon's people’s longings and his gratitude and trust in God. He could die in peace because he’d held the One who’d bring the light of salvation to all peoples. But even as he gave his blessing he spoke a warning. Jesus would bring more light than some could bear. This child would be a threat to those in power. Many would fall, many would rise. Jesus would also fall. Jesus would also rise. In dying and rising Jesus secured the promise of salvation for all. 

How I would love to have been there that day, watching people come and go. How I wish I could see Simeon's face as he recognized the Saviour or heard Anna's shouts of praise. I was not there, but I have glimpsed something of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. I was not there, but I have felt the call to reflect that Light that others may see light.

I wonder what you think of this poem, Candlemas Song? I do not know who the author is but I am grateful to that author. This poem has helped to bring that 2000 year old story into the present for me.

Candlemas Song

I was not there.
I did not dream my way
up prayer-worn Temple steps
as you did, Christ-Mother, that day.

I was not there.
I did not scan the gloom
or clutch a hand for courage
in the Temple waiting-room.

I was not there.
I did not hear the praise
which ancient ones sang of your child
at the midnight of their days.

I was not there.
I did not feel the sting
which bitter-sweet horizons
of your motherhood will bring.

But I am here.
And I would know a birth
to bring Divine Light’s love
into an aching, longing earth.

Yes, I am here.
And I would do my part.
O let a rising blade of Spring
strike fire into my heart.

There is a beautiful setting of Simeon's song, with images below.


  1. A beautiful rendition of the Nunc Dimittis, I've never heard this piece before, nor have I heard of this composer. Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thanks for commenting. that rendition of the Nunc Dimittis is indeed beautiful - a lovely way to let go into peace at the end of a day - or for that matter, at the end of a life.

    2. Pleased you appreciated it 'Anonymous'


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