PASTORAL LETTER – FEBRUARY 2017
Lighting a candle is a sign of hope.
Lighting a candle is a sign of trust.
Lighting a candle is a sign
that the darkness can never overcome the light.
Candlemas is one of my favourite feasts of the year. Falling on the 2nd Feb, we’ll be celebrating it this year on the Sunday before. It recalls the occasion in Luke’s gospel when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, where the faithful old priest Simeon saw Him and sang his song we know as the “Nunc dimittis”:
Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
According to thy Word.
For my eyes have seen thy salvation
Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.
To be a light to reveal you to the nations
And to be the glory of thy people Israel.’’
This little “Song of Simeon” is traditionally said or sung at Compline, the last prayer time or “office” of the day in a monastery. It is also part of our Book of Common Prayer Evensong, which is greatly loved and is an important part of our prayer life here at Holy Cross.
It is about looking back and letting go: Simeon has waited so long to see the Saviour, who has at last come now, at this point in the long history of “thy people Israel”. It is also a looking forward in that this tiny child has been revealed as the one who will save us, the “Light to reveal you to the nations” (it’s because of this line that we have candles for Candlemas), beginning the new and final chapter in that same history.
For us too, Candlemas looks backwards and forwards: it is the last glance back to Christmas (after Candlemas the crib is put away ‘til next year), and the first glance towards Lent, Holy Week and Easter. It’s a good time to take stock, a better time, really, to make “New Year’s Resolutions” than the bleak and hungover days of early January. It is a chance to look back at the people we have been and consciously to look towards the people we - through God’s love and mercy - will be.