*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 2nd of February 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Sure, it’s the 2nd of February, and you might think it’s just another day. But- what if I told you today marks:
- The official end of Christmastide
- The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
- The Feast of the Purification of Mary
- The Ecclesiastical roots of Groundhog Day
- The day to pay your rent or start school in some countries
- Pancake day
And all of this because it is Candlemas. One of the “forgotten” masses in many churches- but one that draws our attention- primarily to Jesus, the light of the world. And groundhog day.
Starting tomorrow, we have one month of “ordinary time” until Ash Wednesday begins. And you might be familiar with the ashes and then palm branches used and blessed in some churches, but those are liturgical objects #2 and #3 on the Calendar. #1 is the candle- today, you would receive a blessed candle to take home to use during the year for challenging weather, illnesses, death, etc.
It is 40 days after Christmas, and so it is the day that Mary and Joseph would take Jesus to the temple to be blessed according to Jewish tradition. And you might remember it was Simeon and Anna who were at the Temple- they who had received the prophecy that they would see the Messiah. And when Simeon does, he proclaims that this baby is:
“a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
On a previous season, we noted that today was also the feast of Cornelius the Centurion as he was considered the first gentile to be converted- he’s the one who is baptized along with his whole family in the book of Acts… so today celebrates both a dedication of a baby and a baptism ;)
So this is the day of lights- and for most of the history of the world, the light came from the sun or candles. (I can’t stop thinking about how spoiled we are with all the water in the sink and pipes that make stuff disappear, and when the power goes out, I just sit lonely and weep)
Think of what candles mean today: romantic dinner, that one service where we are terrified the kids are going to drip wax in the sanctuary; maybe you have some for when the power goes out.
But for most of this church’s history- today marked the changing of something mundane into something holy. And you can bet that the Church Fathers played all sorts of allegorical games with the candle being wax, wick, and flame- 3 parts! One thing but three things!
And candles have long been associated with prayer- go to a Catholic Church today, and you might see the row of candles that can be lit- the smoke that goes upwards recalls the prayers of the Saints in the book of Revelation.
And, it just so happens that depending on where you live and what the weather is like, it might start to look like Spring! But maybe not.
So- it was a tradition on this the day to celebrate Christ the light of the world that folks would see how much light there is on this day- and if there was plenty- it was taken that Spring was here. And how could you tell how much light there was? Shadows, of course. They would look to see if their animals cast a shadow in the German lands when the Germans settled Pennsylvania (remember the Pennsylvania Dutch are German- it’s Pennsylvania “Deutsch”). What critters are all around there? Groundhogs, hence the connection between the feast of the presentation of our Lord and the day with the animal and the Bill Murray movie. I give you permission to take this anecdote as gospel truth- I’d like you to try and slip this fact into your water cooler conversation today.
Also- this is the last day to take down your Christmas decorations. Please.
A very happy Candlemas and related Groundhogs Day on this the 2nd of February.
The Last Word for today comes from John 1:
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 2nd of February 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Bill Murray movies include Groundhog Day, Stripes, and Caddyshack He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose favorite Bill Murray movie is probably Rushmore. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.