February is often a month of change and we hope we’ll see the first signs of spring at this time. February also marks the move from the end of the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany seasons to the beginning of Lent.
Epiphany ends with ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’ on 2nd February, or ‘Candlemas’. Why this name? This was due to its being the feast-day when traditionally the candles to be used both in church and in people’s homes throughout the year were blessed. This brings us to the gospel story for Candlemas.
People can be puzzled that the baby Jesus reappears over a month after Christmas Day. Surely this all ended with the Wise Men at Epiphany? Not quite! In Luke’s Gospel, chapter 2, Jesus is brought by his parents to the Temple in Jerusalem, where he is ‘presented’, and sacrifices to God are offered for him.
According to Jewish Law – which, as observant Jews, Joseph and Mary follow – this takes place forty days after the child’s birth. Hence 2nd February – forty days after Christmas. While the Holy Family is in the Temple, they are met by two people -Simeon, who is almost certainly a priest, and a prophet called Anna. Both of them have been waiting and praying for God to bring his salvation and redemption – his freedom and justice – through his Messiah (which means ‘God’s Anointed’) who will bring in God’s promised kingdom. Both Simeon and Anna talk to Mary and Joseph about the great significance of their young child.