Feast of Candlemas - 2 February 2020
Clarity, Wisdom and Awareness.
Candlemas is the feast of the blessing of candles as we remember the presentation of baby Jesus to the holy man Simeon who acknowledged him as the “light for revelation,” thus creating the symbolism of candles. What better feast to celebrate the Christening and welcoming of Ottilie into our community of faith!
Candlemas is also the day we observe the ritual purification of Mary forty days after the birth of Jesus, as well as the presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem (see Luke 2:21-40). Candlemas has pagan roots, and was a Christian adaptation of a pagan midwinter festival also from which Americans get "Groundhog Day." In the US they still celebrate “Groundhog Day”, which dates back to the 1800s and the Pennsylvania Dutch. On this day, a groundhog will emerge from his burrow and deliver a forecast about whether spring will arrive imminently, or be delayed for six more weeks. Some of you might remember the film “Groundhog Day”. It is a hilarious comedy starring Bill Murray who plays TV weatherman Phil Connors who goes every year to a little town in Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day celebrations on February 2nd, and gets stuck with his cameraman and his assistant in the town as a massive snow storm has blocked all the exits. The problem is that he wakes the following morning, and it’s the 2nd of February again. And the 2nd of February it will remain indefinitely, rebooted each day at 6am, until Phil can find out how to arrest the cycle. This is still one of my favourite comedy films from the ‘90s.
In France, Candlemas is known as La Chandeleur. Crêpes are served with the evening meal. One superstition is that if the cook can flip the crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the household is assured of prosperity in the coming year. The Mexicans refer to Candlemas as Día de La Candelaria. There the local delicacy is Tamales, made from cornmeal dough filled with meat, cheese, and especially sliced chili. Tamales are cooked, or rather steamed in pots, and not baked in the oven like Tortillas.
Many Italian proverbs, especially regarding the weather, are associated with this day. One of the most popular sayings is,
Per la Santa Candelora se nevica o se plora, dell'inverno siamo fora, ma se è sole o solicello, siamo sempre a mezzo inverno.
(‘On the day of Holy Candelora, if it snows or if it rains, we are through with winter, but if there is sunshine or even just a little sun, we are still in the middle of winter').
In this country, where the feast of Candelora is known as Candlemas Day, the saying is similar to the Italian:
If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, winter will have another flight, if Candlemas day be cloudy with rain, winter is gone and won't come again.
That said, we should remember that what it is important to us is the symbolism that binds together all those traditions, and reminds us that Jesus is the only light that can lighten the darkness of our lives. When the Gospel says that Jesus is the light of revelation, it is not saying: “Jesus is like the light that lightens the darkness”. But that “Jesus is the light”. The Gospel is not using a metaphor or pleasant image to describe how Jesus is: It simply states his essence.
From the moment we acknowledge Him as God who became human, He then becomes “the light”, which means He is the true light, the Wisdom. So He is the Wisdom of God made flesh.
However, we still cannot fathom the real meaning of Jesus as the light of the world if we don’t understand what this light means to us in our daily lives. If Jesus is shining like the Sun in our life, what are the signs of going through this transformative experience? What do we call the person who delves into the ocean of light that we call God? Maybe we can call them enlightened. But how do we recognize the Enlightened one? Or how do we sense experiencing Jesus as the light in our own daily lives? Perhaps there are ways to help us see the effects of this spiritual experience.
Clarity is one of them. One who has experienced God as the light, has received the gift of clarity. One sees the world as it is, and not through the lens of distortion of false perceptions and prejudices.
The Enlightened one is wise. Wisdom is another feature of enlightenment. The Enlightened one not only sees things and people as they really are, but also knows the right thing to do.
You and I may face many situations where we may not know exactly what to do, and wisdom is what we need to find our way forward. Longing for Jesus as the light of the world is about knowing that he is the source of Life and Wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, being wise does not mean that we stop making mistakes, but that we act intentionally, not impulsively, in tune with our deepest values and commitments.
Finally, the enlightened one lives in awareness, awareness of the presence of God.
In a world where we may find ourselves powerless before so much violence and destructiveness, injustice, endless poverty and lack of love, awareness is the key. So living in the presence of God means seeing the beauty and the goodness that is around us (clarity), knowing how to engage with them (wisdom), and celebrating them with gratitude while humbly walking in the presence of our God (awareness).
Sometimes we might feel tempted to pull ourselves back into our safe place and not be bothered with what is happening outside our little world because we are overwhelmed by all the negativity. This is the right moment to point to Jesus, our light, the one who can give us the answers. In Him we can find clarity, wisdom and awareness. In Him our soul can find peace and rest.