Skip to comments.Candlemass and Ashes
Posted on 02/01/2008 8:34:41 AM PST by lightman
The change has been slow, yet unrelenting. Since the Winter Solstice, the suns setting has daily delayed, if even by one minute, so that journeys and chores once completed in darkness now are accompanied by brilliant twilight.
Yet, even as this change in evenings day length has been progressing, mornings remain as dark and foreboding as they had a month before. Morning journeys and chores are still completed in darkness. The morning darkness has been unrelenting and slow to change.
But as January ends the mornings too will brighten. With increasing rapidity the sunrise will advance, first by five minutes each week, then nearly by ten. The lengthening of the daylight at morning and night will become obvious.
Because the lengthening of the morning light first becomes obvious around the beginning of February, it is very probable that this helped inspire the tradition of candlelighting that begins the festival of the Presentation of Our Lord on February 2. Surely the brightening of the morning sky would add cheer to the day when the faithful--like the Biblical Simeon-- hail Jesus as the light of all nations and the glory of Israel (Luke 2:32). As the great hymnwriter Charles Wesley has declared:
Christ, whose glory fills the skies, Christ the true and only light,
Sun of righteousness, arise, Triumph oer the shades of night.
Dayspring from on high, be near, Daystar, in my heart appear.
This annual return of morning light and lengthening of the daylight in the Northern Hemisphere certainly influenced our forbearers in the faith as they developed the cycle of feasts and fasts that we know as the Church year. Indeed, the season of preparation for the Paschal Feast of Easter--Lent--derives its name from lengthen, a reference to the lengthening of the daylight.
There is a terrible irony that just as astronomical days grow longer we are very starkly and visibly reminded that our anatomical days grow shorter. As the first buds begin to swell and the first hints of green plants appear our brows are smudged with the residue of lifeless plants and we are told that truth that we would like to deny and yet can never defy: Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return. That change back to the dust of the earth from which we were made is also one that is slow, yet unrelenting.
It is this inevitability that gives Lent and its disciplines such urgency. Knowing not when shall be our last day or hour, we hear all the more sharply the words of St. Paul addressed to the congregation at Corinth:
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As we work together with him, we urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain.
For he says,
At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.
See, now is the acceptable time;
see, now is the day of salvation!
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:2
Epistle for Ash Wednesday
The Apostle pleads for his people not to delay in repenting of their sins or in redirecting their lives. The day of salvation may be at hand at any time.
And when it is at hand, will we greet it with the joy and faith that inspired Simeon of old to take the forty-day old Christ child, the light of nations in his arms and bless God because now, as it had been promised to him, he could die in peace?
For we know that without Christ, the day of the Lord brings darkness and no light. Again, to quote Wesleys hymn:
Dark and cheerless is the morn, Unaccompanied by thee,
Joyless is the days return, Till thy mercys beams I see,
Till they inward light impart, Glad my eyes, and warm my heart.
So it is then, that we should anticipate the lengthening of the daylight and the shortening of our days with the Lenten disciplines of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving to encourage that gift of heart-warming grace. And so it is that we should greet the lengthening of the daylight and the shortening of our days with the final verse of Wesleys hymn:
Visit then, this soul of mine. Pierce the gloom of sin and grief;
Fill me, radiancy divine, Scatter all my unbelief;
More and more thyself display, Shining to the perfect day.
So may we pray.
So may we fast.
So may we give alms.
So may we change slowly and unrelentingly .
In our Orthodox Church in America (OCA) parish this morning, in the celebration of the Meeting of our Lord (i.e. the Presentation), the priest blessed the supply of candles for the year. There was no special candle-lighting, although the candle-stands were full of brightly-burning candles.
So “Candlemass”, in some form, is celebrated in both East and West.
Blessed are those feasts which are truly catholic and universal, and even more blessed those who keep them.
My Lutheran parish had the Presentation Icon displayed yesterday and the Transfiguration Icon displayed today.
I never heard the term mentioned in regards to the Church.
It’s apparently not called “Candlemass” in Eastern Orthodoxy, but the blessing of candles is conected with the Meeting of our Lord (or at least we did it in our OCA parish last Sunday, in lieu of doing it on Sat. Feb. 2, the true day of the feast).
Is that not true?
Also, a Western Rite Orthodox parish that I know from the Internet celebrated Candlemass, and called it by that name. “Mass” is a Western Christian term.
Here's wishing blessings to everyone during this Lenten season.
Almighty and ever-living God,
You hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of those who are penitent.
Create in us new and honest hearts,
so that, truly repenting of our sins,
we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy,
full pardon and forvieness,
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God, now and forever.
BTTT for Candlemass, A.D. 2009
BTTT, Candlemass Eve, AD 2010.
Feast of the Purification (Candlemas)
Candlemass and Ashes
SIMEON IS OPEN TO THE LORDS ACTION [Presentation of the Lord]
[Feast of the] Presentation of the Lord
Orthodox Feast of The Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple; February 2