The Reader's Rumblings - 2017 February

The Reader’s Rumblings – February 2017

Reader of the parish dressed in white surplice with blue scarfChurch treasurers, well actually any treasurer, are often reluctant to spend money, which is actually at times no bad thing since it is what they are charged with doing.

The treasurer at a Church we once attended took it to a higher plane. One example was our pair of large altar candles that were lit by canisters which were not meant to be reusable.  However our treasurer found a way of refilling them with lighter fuel! (Our Sanctuary lamp was electric – all to save expenditure on candles.)

We had a new Priest from a high Church background; an artist by profession who liked the effect real candle light could bring to our worship. So out went the refillable canisters and up went our expenditure on candles.

This brings me neatly to Candlemas, which is celebrated on the 2nd February. Candlemas commemorates the ritual purification of Mary, forty days after the birth of her son Jesus. This day also marks the presentation of the baby Jesus to God in the Temple at Jerusalem.

Luke’s Gospel says that Jesus was met by two characters called Anna and Simeon. Simeon held the baby Jesus and called him a ‘Light to the World’ – thus creating the link to candles.

Ritual purification stems back to a Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child. For 40 days for a boy, and 60 days for a girl, women weren't allowed to worship in the temple.  At the end of this time, women were brought to the Temple or Synagogue to be purified. After the ceremony women were allowed to take part in religious services again.

The festival is called Candlemas because this was the day that all the Church's candles for the year were blessed.  And that is what we used to do at our Church in Cornwall – bless our supply of candles – not the full year’s supply I hasten to add – our dear treasurer was not that generous!

Like some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from Paganism. In pre-Christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the mid-point of winter, half way between the winter solstice (the shortest day) and the spring equinox.

Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English song goes: 

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas bring clouds and rain,
Go winter, and come not again.

Thus if the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas Day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon.

Traditionally, any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) should be left up until Candlemas Day and then taken down. The Christmas Tree in St John’s will be removed during January and parts used for our Easter celebrations. The Crib will remain in place until Candlemas.

Another celebration in February is St Valentine’s Day and at our Family Service at 9.30am on the 12 February 2017 our theme will be ‘love’ and we again welcome Rosie Knott from the Christian Youth Enterprises Sailing Centre at Cobnor as our visiting ‘preacher’. Please come along.

Martin Brown – Reader at St John The Baptist Church, Westbourne


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