Candlemas & Groundhog’s Day: A Reflection

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”-a Swedish Proverb

This week in the Church’s worship cycle the symbol of the candle is quite prominent.  Today, Feb 2nd  is the celebration of The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and the celebration of Candlemas; the blessing of candles used in the home or church.  Wednesday is the feast of St. Blase, a bishop and martyr who died in 316. This ancestor in faith is best known for the Blessing of Throats.  The Blessing of Throats uses two candles in the form of a cross placed on the person’s throat in which the blessing that is invoked calls upon purification. Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. An old English song goes: If Candlemas be fair and bright, Come winter, have another flight; If Candlemas bring clouds and rain, Go winter, and come not again.

Thus if the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon. This practice led to the folklore behind “Groundhog’s Day,” which falls on Candlemas Day.

In all these instances, candles/light are the primary symbols.  These symbols are used not to focus on the weather or on the bodily ailment; but to be a reminder of the coming warmth of spring and Easter. They serve as reminders of hope, light and healing.  Candles are symbols of the light of Christ, a light that can be divided/shared, but undimmed.  A Light that is offered in the Temple this day and glows more brightly as we approach the Easter resurrection.  A Light that casts out all darkness and fear.  The lighting of a candle can cause us to become more reflective and to slow down.  The use of candles in the religious tradition reminds us what is important in life. Too often we go through our days, worried about some small things, which either has not happened to us or is beyond our control.  When worry causes the shadow and not the Light, it can cause all kinds of troubles of the mind, strains the heart, distresses the soul and confuses judgment. Worry and anxiety take our focus away from one another.

How we can build community and focus on what’s important, the relationships with our families, friends and coworkers? How do we contribute to the sharing of the Light and making darkness bright?

  • How can we find just a few moments in our day to carve out some quiet space to slow down and give some new perspective on our life, work and ministry?
  • In what ways can we bring to light the gifts and talents of our communities and share them for building and sustaining the Light of the Gospel?

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