Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas

Blessing of the Candles © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels for Feast of the Presentation: Luke 2.22-40

The beginning of February offers us another lovely feast day on the heels of today’s Feast of St. Brigid. In the rhythm of the Christian liturgical year, tomorrow marks the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus, also called the Feast of the Purification of Mary. This day bids us remember Mary and Joseph’s visit to the Temple to present their child Jesus on the fortieth day following his birth, as Jewish law required, and for Mary to undergo the postpartum rites of cleansing. Luke’s Gospel tells us that a resident prophet named Anna and a man named Simeon immediately recognize and welcome Jesus. Taking the child into his arms, Simeon turns his voice toward God and offers praise for the “light for revelation” that has come into the world.

Taking a cue from Simeon, some churches began, in time, to mark this day with a celebration of light: the Candle Mass, during which priests would bless the candles to be used in the year to come. Coinciding with the turn toward spring and lengthening of light in the Northern Hemisphere, Candlemas offers a liturgical celebration of the renewing of light and life that comes to us in the natural world at this time of year, as well as in the story of Jesus. As we emerge from the deep of winter, the feast reminds us of the perpetual presence of Christ our Light in every season.

With her feast day just next door, and with the abundance of fire in the stories of her life, it’s no surprise that St. Brigid makes an appearance among the Candlemas legends. One of those legends reflects a splendid bit of time warping that happened around Brigid. The stories and prayers of Ireland and its neighbors often refer to Brigid as the midwife to Mary and the foster mother of Christ. Chronologically, this would have been a real stretch (seeing as how Brigid was born in 454 CE), but in a culture in which the bond of fostering was sometimes stronger than the bond of blood, this creative image of Brigid reveals something of the deep esteem that she attracted. In the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of prayers, legends, and songs that Alexander Carmichael gathered in Scotland in the 19th century, he conveys this story of Brigid as an anachronistic acolyte:

It is said in Ireland that Bride [Brigid] walked before Mary with a lighted candle in each hand when she went up to the Temple for purification. The winds were strong on the Temple heights, and the tapers were unprotected, yet they did not flicker nor fail. From this incident Bride is called Bride boillsge (Bride of brightness). This day is occasionally called La Fheill Bride nan Coinnle (the Feast Day of Bride of the Candles), but more generally la Fheill Moire nan Coinnle (the Feast Day of Mary of the Candles)—Candlemas Day.

On this Candlemas Eve, where do we find ourselves in this story? Are we Mary, graced by the light that another sheds on our path? Or are we Brigid, carrying the light for another in need?

A blessed Candlemas to you!

[To use the “Blessing of the Candles” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of the Jan Richardson Images site helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

[For my other reflection & art related to Luke 2.22-40/The Presentation, visit this post.]

7 Responses to “Feast of the Presentation/Candlemas”

  1. mompriest Says:

    Jan, I am pleased to introduce your blog (well, again, since I’ve made reference to you and your blog on previous occasions)…but to officially introduce your blog to the revgals!!! Welcome!

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Many thanks, Mompriest! I’m delighted to join the table; thank you for your hospitality. For folks who aren’t familiar with RevGalBlogPals: it’s a blog and webring that describes itself as “a table set for a diverse group of people—women pursuing or discerning a Christian vocation—and their friends.” Their offerings include “Tuesday Lectionary Leanings,” where folks post thoughts on how they’ll be approaching the lectionary readings in their sermons on the coming Sunday. Other weekly features include Thursday’s “Ask the Matriarch,” which invites readers to seek counsel on an issue they’re struggling with in ministry, and Saturday’s “11th Hour Preacher Party.” All the member blogs in the web ring are listed on the blog’s main page. Click RevGalBlogPals to pay a visit.

  2. Mary Beth Says:

    Welcome to RevGals!!! and thanks for all your inspiring and lovely creations and words.

  3. Songbird Says:

    I loved learning more about Candlemas! Welcome to RevGalBlogPals, where I am sure you already have a lot of blogging friends!!

  4. deb Says:

    I am inspired by your art and had to restrain myself from investigating all of your side links!! What a great blog – glad you’ve joined RevGals! :)


  5. Jan Richardson Says:

    Mary Beth & Songbird & Deb: Thanks so much for the welcome to RevGals! And thank you for your own blogs. Many blessings to you…

  6. Terri Says:

    And here I am, back again, five years later – finding food for thought for my sermon tomorrow – the text being off lectionary – on the Presentation. It is boy and girl scout Sunday and the troops our church charters will be there. Much has changed since I used the pseudonym Mompriest and introduced your blog to the RevGals. I feel it’s been a life time, for me and for you, as well as others. Regardless, I continue to give thanks for your beautiful words and art and the inspiration I find here. I think my sermon will somehow address the idea of unexpected formation – building off of what Mary might have experienced in the temple and how her life unfolded. Now, thanks to you, I may also include a bit about Brigid, one of my favorite saints.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *