A New Perspective – Reflection for the Feast of Candlemas 30 January 2022

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 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

Luke 2:22-40

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On the Feast of Candlemas we reflect on the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Mary and Joseph were good Jews. Jewish Law said that 40 days after the birth of a first-born son, parents were to go to the temple to offer sacrifice and to dedicate him to God. Whilst at the Temple, the ancient prophetess Anna and the devout Simeon recognise Jesus as the long-awaited king. Simeon prophesies that Jesus will suffer, and so the focus turns from Jesus’ birth to his death. But in his famous speech that we call the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon also calls Jesus a light, a light to enlighten all people. So the Church made the feast into a feast of candles. Traditionally, many churches would celebrate with a candlelight procession. It was very joyful and lively. People would hold their candles high to oppose all that is bad in the world. At the end of the procession, all the candles that were going to be used in the church in the year ahead were brought out and blessed. On Sunday at St Mary de Crypt, I will bless some of the candles that we will be using in that church, in St Swithun’s and in St Mary de Lode too.

For the Jewish people, the Temple was the place to meet with God. It was also the place to be reconciled with God for it housed the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat. Luke wrote his Gospel after the Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. The people were devastated because in the destruction of the Temple lay the destruction of their relationship with God. Luke offers a different perspective. He is making the point that Jesus is the new Temple through whom we are reconciled to God. It is in and through Jesus that we meet with God.

Rev Canon Nikki Arthy, Rector

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