A Candlemas Post 2015

Villagers on Their Way to Church
Villagers on Their Way to Church

This lovely Flemish illumination of villagers making their way to church for Candlemas (you can just see the lighted tapers being carried in procession) captures the essence of today’s celebration.
Detail showing Candelmas procession The Presentation of the Lord marks the end of the Infancy Cycle, the true end of Christmastide. Our gaze now turns towards the public ministry and, very soon, we shall begin the Lent and Easter Cycle. But for a brief moment all is gladness and joy as we mark the dedication of Christ to the service of his Father. It is uncomplicated: a fulfilment of the Old Covenant which ushers in the New. Simeon and Anna stand as types of Israel’s long fidelity, and there is only that fleeting reference to the sword that will pierce Mary’s heart to give us pause. Every night the Church joins her voice to Simeon’s in his jubilant Nunc Dimittis. We, too, have seen the promised salvation, and we rejoice.

It was no accident that today’s feast was chosen for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. Every religious vocation begins with a joyful dedication of self to the Lord’s service; and like every vocation in the Church, it is never for oneself alone. The whole village participates, so to say; and though the menace of that sword of sorrow is acknowledged, it is not dwelt upon. The light that enlightens the gentiles and the glory of his people Israel guides us every step of the way.

Yesterday I wrote in very personal terms about my own understanding of monastic life. Today I  invite you to think more generally about the place of consecrated life in the Church — what it says to you, and what it asks of you. Of one thing we can be sure: it is a light that will never go out because it takes fire from him who is the Light of the World.

Note on the illustration
Simon Bening (Flemish, about 1483 – 1561) 
Villagers on Their Way to Church, about 1550, Tempera colours and gold paint on parchment
Leaf: 5.6 x 9.6 cm (2 3/16 x 3 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 50, recto

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3 thoughts on “A Candlemas Post 2015”

  1. Yesterday for Candlemas, we had a commissioning Mass for our renewed lights and power across the church. The service was led by our Arch Deacon and was a joyful occasion. We processed with Candles around the Church and recited the Magnificat as a responsive prayer as we did so.

    This was Candlemas in a way I’d not experienced before. The sermon from the Arch Deacon provided some historical and scriptural background to The Presentation of Christ, particularly the light – and the renewed light that we were celebrating. It gave a slightly different perspective to this particular feast and his enthusiasm for the topic was catching, as we were all talking about it during the reception in Church after the service.

    The story came alive in nuances and insights that I should have been familiar with, but had plainly forgotten. Simeon and Anna alive, almost acting out the scene in our presence. It was lovely to see young children, in the service, although the for the first time, no babe in arms, which would have been an aid to contemplation of Jesus, being taken from Mary’s arms by Simeon for those great words to be spoken about him.

    Sometimes a service is memorable for a particular experience, but this service was memorable for the whole experience. Renewed in the light of God’s Glory, What better way to make your way home afterwards.

  2. “But for a brief moment all is gladness and joy as we mark the dedication of Christ to the service of his Father.”

    Thank you for this message and especially for the wonderful image.

  3. Recently it was announced that a Carmelite monastery near where I live is to close. The sisters are all elderly and their care can not be met at the site. Many friends expressed deep sadness at the imminent loss of a community we have few direct links with. We do share prayer intentions/visit the chapel for Mass/a handful of children from the primary school visit once a year…

    Why should we feel loss? It is not simply nostalgia. There is something immensely powerful about knowing that there are communities living in a different way in order to fulfil a particular vocation. Perhaps a cliche but the sisters are a beacon offering hope and comfort. It is very easy to be distracted and lose the way. I find great joy in the fact that quietly, without any of the trappings of society, there are people praying every day and making a very strong witness to what most of us struggle to engage with.

    Sadly there are many things to turn our attention away from God. We must pray for and ponder anything/anyone who draws us back.

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