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The Presentation in the Templ

Candlemas 2023

The Presentation in the Templ

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple,
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(Gregorian Sacramentary, Sarum Missal, 1549 BCP)

Candlemas originates from fourth century Jerusalem. It  was celebrated on February 12. It was moved to February 2 to be forty days after Christmas as that was set on December 25. Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced to Rome the procession with lit candles from his native Syria.

The story is sourced in Luke 2:22-40 where that author conflates Leviticus 12 (purification for a new mother, forty days after the birth of a son, eighty days after a daughter’s birth) with redemption of the firstborn son from service to God (Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16; Numbers 18:15-16). Although the later required  a five shekel payment to the priests, there was no requirement to go the temple. Prior to purification the mother is unclean. Purification involves the offering of a lamb as a thank offering for the gift of a child, and a dove or pigeon to cover any possible sin incurred in the flow of blood. Those unable to afford a lamb could offer a second dove.

The festival can be seen as a final farewell facing Christmas, and a turning to the walk towards the cross. This fits with the seasonal weather changes within nature.

Preserve us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

Preserve us, O Lord, while waking, and guard us while sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

Crêpes at Candlemas

I repeat what I wrote a couple of years ago: Thanks to (regular part of this community) Rev. Barbara Dineen for telling me about the French tradition of crêpes on Candlemas [if I knew about this once, I have forgotten]. The Lenten (Spring) tradition of not eating eggs makes natural sense – so that there are chicks to hatch in (Northern Hemisphere) Spring. Using up all the eggs before Lent (by eating them in pancakes) is, of course, completely bizarre church/liturgy logic! Now, why this tradition of pancakes/crêpes for Candlemas? My suspicion is that this originates with an extended Lent. [There is a tradition of ceasing to use “Alleluia” on the eve of Septuagesima – three Sundays before Lent. That is clearly an example of a longer Lent].

Damien Bastock (in the Liturgy facebook Page discussion about this) said that the crêpes-at-Candlemas tradition is found in France, Belgium, Holland, and not uncommon in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Barbara highlighted, “And to add to the folklore, you need to hold a gold coin in one hand and toss the pancake with the other to ensure good fortune in the year to come! Reminiscent of coins in Christmas puddings!” Robert McLean mentioned Navettes(boat-shaped biscuits) in Provence for Candlemas to celebrate the arrival of the Gospel.

Géo McLarney pointed to a wonderful (free) resource: Christian Feasts and Customs. Thanks. And also said, “According to tradition, Pope Gelasius I, whose sacramentary is one of the first to list this Feast, is credited with having fed pilgrims with crêpes,” (source).

2 February is also “Groundhog Day” and the World Day for Consecrated Life.

Resources beyond this site:
Resources for Preaching Down Under
Textweek resources
Girardian reflection on the readings

Southern Hemisphere Candlemas?

It is understandable that, at this time, in the north of the Northern Hemisphere, locked in cold, dark, miserable, boring winter, that the church has lots of celebrations – people have time, and candles and processions make perfect sense. The Church of England can stretch out Christmas with the Naming of Jesus, Epiphany, all the way for forty days to The Presentation/Candlemas. 

But in New Zealand, the average person would understand “The twelve days of Christmas” to be the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day. After Christmas Day, the tree comes down and it’s off camping at the beach as long as possible, with a New Years’ Eve party thrown in for good measure. Clergy are away on holiday also with a skeleton staffing in churches reduced from a full run of services all week to maybe one on Sunday. Congregations are at their lowest as people worship the God of nature in nature. The last thing we need to be doing is aping mummy Church of England.

So A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPB 1989) sensibly had The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as a Feast of our Lord “in light type” (page 7). It was celebrated on 2 February. Roman Catholics, and Northern Hemisphere Anglicans (CofE, USA, Canada) had that if February 2 falls on Sunday, it would take precedence over the Sunday – that option was allowed. Simple. End of story.

The Feast of “The Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin” (as Candlemas was called) survived the English Reformation, and simply as a celebration on the actual day that it falls. It did so in England right through to the liturgical revision of the Alternative Service Book of 1980. And similarly in NZ Anglicanism. It was only with the Church of England’s 1991 resource “The Promise of His Glory” that Candlemas was upgraded:

Where Candlemas is given this pivotal place, Sundays up to Candlemas need to be ‘of Epiphany’, and Sundays after Candlemas ‘before Lent’. We also give encouragement for this feast to be celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 2 February, to enable it to make its impact. (page 260).

CofE’s Common Worship committed that church to this approach. Some Kiwi Anglicans, enamoured with such colourful Medieval opportunities in Northern-Hemisphere Mother England, patched some of these bits onto our Southern-Hemisphere cloth. Those anglophiles in NZ, who love adding ever more and more options onto a baroque Church Year of the Anglican Church of Or just glued, without any attempt at inculturation, their ideas to our beach context.

Candlemas has now, in Aotearoa New Zealand, shot all the way from being a Feast of our Lord “in light type” to a PRINCIPAL FEAST in BOLD CAPITALS (in the lectionary booklet) which “is to be observed” – and not just on the day it falls, (with the option that if, once in seven years, it falls on Sunday, you are allowed to celebrate it rather than the Ordinary Sunday). No – in The Anglican Church of Or we can now move it if it falls on a weekday (as it obviously mostly does) and celebrate it “on the Sunday falling between 28 January and 3 February”. 

I have been present at a Sundayised Candlemas where a formal introduction to the service announced that it was now 40 days since we celebrated Christmas – even those without a maths degree knew it was no such thing!

Furthermore, in this Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, we now formally count our Ordinary Time as starting from this celebration, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: “Ordinary time is the period after the Feast of the Presentation of Christ until Shrove Tuesday…“. In ANZPB 1989, we simply counted Ordinary Time starting the Sunday between 7 and 13 January like all Christians who use the Ordinary Time counting system (ANZPB 1989, page 707). This coming Sunday, for all others who use Ordinary Time, is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In the NZ Anglican confused and confusing approach, NZ Anglicanism, on its first Sunday in NZ Anglican Ordinary Time, also, surprisingly calls this coming Sunday “the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time”!!! This means that we begin NZ Anglican Ordinary Time with the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time without having celebrated a Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, or a Third one, and so on. NZ Anglicanism truly reinforces the misunderstanding of what Ordinary Time is: Ordinary Time is actually Counting Time – it is not everyday time, natural time…

Australian Anglicanism and Southern African Anglicanism, both Southern Hemisphere versions of Anglicanism, have retained the inherited celebration of Candlemas as being February 2 without having it close a Christmas Season or upgrading it to an annual Sunday celebration. Only NZ Anglicanism has abandoned Southern-Hemisphere inculturation and followed Mummy England in her making her bleak midwinter less boring, filled with more celebrations and more candles and light.

Southern Hemisphere Inculturation?

So what could be our Southern Hemisphere equivalent? How might we renew our own Southern Hemisphere bleak midwinter in the manner that the Northern Hemisphere CofE has done? Well, six months from early February we arrive in early August. We, in NZ Anglicanism could celebrate the Transfiguration (August 6) with a Vigil (the night of August 5) with candles, processions, and also, as well as the Gospel message of the Transfiguration, a particular focus on peace (the anniversary of Hiroshima’s bombing being on August 6 – that has its own tradition of candles). Such a Transfiguration focus could pick up other Candlemas practices: the faithful might gather in a place apart from the worship space, all with a lit candle, and, after the blessing of candles, process into the church building.

So I suggest NZ Anglicanism returns to the well-thought-through approach of A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa 1989 (ANZPB/HKMA) which holds with the majority Western position of celebrating Candlemas/The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February (and doesn’t move it to the nearest Sunday). If that happens (once in seven years) to fall on Sunday, you are welcome to celebrate that on Sunday. Let us return to the well-thought-through approach of ANZPB/HKMA of counting Ordinary Time, with the rest of the world’s churches that use that counting system, starting the Sunday between 7 and 13 January.

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2 thoughts on “Candlemas 2023”

  1. Chris Lancaster

    Thanks Bosco, the idea of a midwinter feast of light and peace certainly resonates with me. Are you suggesting transferring Transfiguration to the nearest Sunday?
    I’m also thinking about what you’ve written previously regarding the Sunday before Ash Wednesday… presumably if there were a greater emphasis on 6 August as you suggest here, that would only add to the case for not having a “Transfiguration Sunday” at another point in the year.

    1. Thanks, Chris. The Current NZ Anglican (Anglican Church of Or) situation is that a community can end up celebrating the Transfiguration three times in a year; it can also not celebrate it at all! The majority Christian celebrations are a Sunday one on Lent 2 and as a feast day on August 6. The “Sunday before Lent” Transfiguration Sunday practice is the conclusion of an Epiphany Season. I would remove this third option. I would hold to the Transfiguration on Lent 2 and see if we could grow a Southern-Hemisphere inculturated Transfiguration celebration on August 6 on that actual day (as described in my post). If the Northern-Hemisphere winter celebration of Christmas is not transferred to a Sunday, why need our Southern Hemisphere winter Transfiguration celebration need to be? Blessings.

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