And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22
Of all days of the church calendar, this one might have the richest and deepest layering of meanings. Its biblical reference is Luke 2 in which Mary and her child come to the temple to fulfill the law following childbirth. There they are met and greeted by two holy elders, Simeon and Anna. Simeon’s song of blessing and celebration is one we sing almost every week after we have received our Lord in communion: Now let your servant depart in peace, your word has been fulfilled….a light for the revelation of the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel.
Kept in Jerusalem as a procession since the fourth century, the several themes of the day have been emphasized by the various branches of Christianity over the centuries. Some have kept the day as a feast of Mary, emphasizing her purification in the temple. Others have kept the nativity and the presentation together as one event. Others have emphasized Simeon’s line about Jesus being the light of the world, making this day another festival of light.
Known also as Candlemas in some parts of the church, this is a day to bless the candles and to say thank you to those who take care of the holy places. It’s appropriate for us to say thank you to Milly Engberg, our sacristan (keeper of the sacred things).
The story of the presentation shows three generations together in an important ritual, reminding me of our congregation and of how the generations interact and learn from one another.
In folk culture, this day is full of weather proverbs, such as that a sunny Candlemas means extended winter, a rainy one an early spring. There are folk tales in Europe about wolves and badgers bringing signs of changes to come. German immigrants brought the story about the badger to America where it turned into one told by a groundhog.