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From The Revd Shirley Holder

On 2nd February the church marks the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, commonly called Candlemas, which is a pivot in the Christian year. It falls 40 days after Christmas and very shortly before Lent, when the celebratory white liturgical colour changes to the penitential purple, with just 11 days of green in between this year.

At Christmas and Epiphany, we celebrate the wonderful revelation of Jesus, first to the Jews and then to all peoples, and Candlemas is equally rich in meaning. It marks the presentation of Christ in the Temple, the purification of his Mother, the meeting between the baby Saviour and the aged Simeon, and the recognition that the Light of the World is come amongst us. Indeed, in 5th century, this theme gave rise to the use of candles in services and to the candle related name. Yet, Candlemas has a 'bitter-sweet' nature that leads to the Passion and to Easter. The revelation of the child Jesus, greeted by Simeon and Anna with rejoicing, is followed by prophetic words of Simeon, speaking of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce. Thus, we take a final look back to Christmas, then turn towards the cross!

For me, Candlemas will always have a special significance, for on 2nd February 2020 I was ordained deacon by Bishop Dagmar in Great St Mary’s. What a significant day on which to be presented to God to serve ‘as a herald of Christ’s Kingdom’ and to be surrounded with everyone’s love as you loudly declared that it was your will that I be ordained! All of us are called to serve God as a royal priesthood, so I hope you will join me regularly in praying these words from the Candlemas collect, ‘Almighty God … grant that we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts, by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord”.Illustration above: Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, 1631 by Rembrandt

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