Monday, February 2, 2015

Candlemas: Inviting Light into Our Lives

Today is Candlemas; in the Christian church, this day marks the true end of Christmastide, by celebrating the day forty days after the birth of Jesus, when Mary would have presented her baby at the temple, as all Jewish mothers of sons were required to do.  She would have presented a sacrifice to the priests so that she could be purified after childbirth.  For an essay that ponders the theological implications of this holiday, see my essay on the Living Lutheran site.

There are other holidays happening today too; Groundhog's Day is probably most famous.  The pagan festivals of Imbolc and Oimelc celebrate the stirring of seeds, the shifting of seasons, the time when the planet begins the tilt to spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Yesterday I found myself humming the old hymn "In the Deep Midwinter" (lyrics by none other than Christina Rossetti).  It's often sung in churches at Christmas.  But truly, right now we're in the deep midwinter.  It's no wonder so many of us long for some spring rituals.  Or maybe we're just longing for light.  We get a smidge more each day, but it's not enough for most of us.

There are some Christian communities who will bless the whole year's supply of candles today.  It's a good day to light our own candles.  What light would we like to see blaze more brightly as we head towards a new season?  What light needs to be protected?

For those of us who celebrate spring by planting the garden, we could start with seeds inside this month.  What fun to see those seeds sprout!  It only takes a few days for most types of seeds, and it's a cheap thrill:  a little pot, some soil, some water, and a seed.  It can't cost much more than a coffee at your local coffee place, and it may be a treat that continues longer.

We could buy a plant.  I've been loving the little African violet that we bought at a church sale a few years ago.  It reminds me of my grandmother too, and the little pots of violets that she kept on top of the radio cabinet.  They bloomed brightly throughout the year.

We could get a simple bouquet of flowers, which won't require the same amount of care that a plant does.  A bouquet would brighten the room for at least a week, and I've had some bouquets last weeks--such hardy blooms, so brightly colored.

Maybe we want to care for creation in a different way.  We could scatter birdseed on the ground, particularly if we live in a wintery place.  I love this meditation by Rachel Barenblat on the joys of her birdfeeder and the birds who visit.

The wonders of creation are all around us; we just need to train ourselves to see it.  Here's one of my favorite quotes by writer Wendell Berry, which sums it up more eloquently than I have hope of doing:  "Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine--which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes" ("Christianity and the Survival of Creation" from Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, page 103). 

Spring will be here soon.  In the meantime, we can invite more light into our lives in a variety of ways. 

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