February 2, 2007

Candlemas

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, also known in the West as Candlemas, and I think, formerly known as the Purification of Mary. It's a perfect day to celebrate light by blessing candles, on the cross-quarter day half-way between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox.

I like these feast days that seem to come out of order. The feast of the Presentation is like a piece of Christmas--the child Jesus, the theme of the light, the Lukan narrative of Simeon and Anna--that comes in the middle of winter Ordinary Time. I feel the same way about the Transfiguration; it's like a piece of the Resurrection glory of Easter that arrives suddenly in the otherwise liturgically drab middle of the summer.

That feast days like today should monkey-wrench the otherwise neat and linear progression of liturgical mystery by appearing a little out of order, it reminds me that all the mysteries we celebrate are a unity, not, as it were, coming one after the other, but as a single benevolent Mystery viewed from different angles.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Presentation/Purification of Our Lady isn't out of sequence.

The Presentation is exactly 40 after the Nativity, the time for purification that is outlines in the OT law. It only seems out of sequence because the new calendar combines the seasons of Epiphnay and Septuagesima (Pre-Lent) into Ordinary Time, under the older calendar they were distinct, and today marked the end of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle, with next Sunday marking the Begining of the Lent/Easter Cycle.

This extended period of Epiphany is still observed in Rome to a certain extent. The Creche at St. Peters will be put away tomorrow, it stays through the end of today.

Charles of New Haven said...

Thank you, anonymous, for your erudite response...I certainly didn't mean anything pejorative about our current calendar by my post...just that it's an example of how many streams overlap: the current sparse cycles of Christmas and the first spell of ordinary time, the solar markers of solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days, and the older calendar elements of sets of 40 days(which any Franciscan should be aware of after reading the fasting regulations in the Rule!)

All I meant to claim is the way in which the great mysteries penetrate out and flavor parts of the current calendar beyond their particular seasons, and how it helps me know some grace of awe.

Thanks for writing and in and sharing your knowledge!

Anonymous said...

I too enjoy the new calendar as well as the old. They both contribute richness to our tradition and give Glory to the Creator. For example, I think moving the Visitation from July 2 to May 31, so that it was celebrated between the Annuciation and the Nativity of John was a good move. I also really like the new lectionary. However, I really do wish that we still had an Epiphany season lasting several weeks to spur us twoard our own epiphanies.

I had never thought of the cross-quarter days in relation to the liturgical life of the Church before. This is certainly something to meditate on. The movements of brother Sun throughout the heavens has a lot to teach us about the Word. Certainly it is no accident that Candlemas is on the cross-quarter. On first thought I'd say that at the very least there is a messsage about baptism (re-birth on the 8th day) implicit in the fact that between the day we pray "O Oriens.." at vespers and today is one-eighth of the year.

--the same anonymous

Charles of New Haven said...

Wow, anonymous, you are too cool. It's neat to meet someone like you! I share your feelings about not having enough epiphany-it's so mystical and many-layered.