Sunday, February 02, 2014

Candlemas 2014

Νϋν άπολύεις τον δοϋλον σου, δέσποτα,
κατά τό πήμά έν είρήνη
οτι είδον οί όφθαλμοί μου τό σωτήριόν σου
ό ήτοίμασας κατά πρόσωπον πάντων τώυ λαϖν
φϖς είς άποκάλυψιν έθνϖν
καί δόξα νλαοϋ σου ‘Ισραήλ

Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve--Robert Herrick

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dressed the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.

At Candlemas--Charles Causley

'If Candlemas be fine and clear
There'll be two winters in that year';

But all the day the drumming sun
Brazened it out that spring had come,

And the tall elder on the scene
Unfolded the first leaves of green.

But when another morning came
With frost, as Candlemas with flame,

The sky was steel, there was no sun,
The elder leaves were dead and gone.

Out of a cold and crusted eye
The stiff pond stared up at the sky,

And on the scarcely breathing earth
A killing wind fell from the north,

But still within the elder tree
The strong sap rose, though none could see.

The Gospel according to St. Luke, Chapter 2

22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23 (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

The date for Candlemas does not come from "pagan" Irish holidays, but from Mosaic law (Leviticus 12:2-8). As New Advent notes, the earliest attestation to any observation of the day is in the Jerusalem church, where the event was observed on February 14th, meaning Christ's birthday was, as at least one version of The Cherry Tree Carol has it, on Epiphany, not December 25th. (Interestingly, that carol has roots in Pseudo-Matthew, where it's a palm tree, not a cherry tree (of course), something I didn't know, but suspected. Chapter 20, if you're wondering. Interesting how these "apocryphal" stories persist, isn't it?)

Anyway, the folklore connected with this day is that now, finally, Christmas is over, because the last public act of Christ the child is conducted.   The Christmas celebration ends with the άποκάλυψιν, the apocalypse, again. What Simeon sings is that this child, presented at the Temple, will be a revelation, an "apocalypse," to the έθνϖν, the "ethnown," the Gentiles. People like Luke. People like most of us. Lord, now let us depart in peace.

Rain and grey clouds and falling temperatures here on the Third Coast. No unfolding first leaves of green yet. I was taught by a farmer's daughter (watch it! She was my mother's age when I met her) that winter isn't over here until the pecan trees start to bud, so I wait patiently; and, as ever, hope only to depart in peace.


  1. "Rain and grey clouds and falling temperatures here on the Third Coast. No unfolding first leaves of green yet."

    Having lived for some years in the "Third Coast" which is Michigan, I couldn't imagine there would be in early February. But Wiki tells me the Gulf Coast (pecans?) also uses this appellation---is that where you are?

  2. Down where the pecan is the state tree, yessireebob!