Candlemas Prayer for the Light of the World
This Candlemas Prayer builds on the tradition and spirit of the earliest Christian feast day. Candlemas is the end of the Christmas celebration on February 2, which is 40 days after Christ’s birth.
At that time Jesus’ family presented him in the Temple in accordance to Jewish Law. (See Luke 2:22-40) Traditionally, church members bring candles to their churches for a special blessing. They then take their candles home to remind them that Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.
This tradition later gave rise to folklore that led to Groundhog Day.
Candlemas Prayer for the Light of the World
As we remember how Jesus was presented as a baby in the Temple,
We remember Simeon’s declaration that he is the Light of the World.
We have experienced so much darkness within ourselves and within our world.
We hunger for your light to dispel the darkness and guide us to life.
Increase the small flames you have created in our lives
That we might bring your light into the darkness.
About this Candlemas Prayer for the Light of the World
I had never heard of Candlemas until I decided to look up the origin of Groundhog Day which is celebrated in the US on February 2 each year. As you probably know, tradition has it that on Groundhog Day if the animal sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. Yet before there was a Groundhog Day, there was Candlemas.
The Christian Feast Day
Imagine my surprise to discover that this was originally a Christian feast day February 2 celebrating 40 days after the birth of Jesus when he was presented in the Temple according to the Jewish religious law.
The Christian tradition of blessing candles (hence the name Candlemas) on this day is based on Luke 2:29-32 where an elderly prophet named Simeon takes Jesus into his arms and proclaims about him:
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (NIV)
The theme of Jesus as the light of the world is emphasized by John when he says, “In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4 NIV)
Jesus himself takes up the theme of light when he passes onto us the great honor of shining his light in the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put I under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
The old tradition of Candlemas weather being used to predict the end of winter
Candlemas was an important religious holiday for several centuries. Christians would bring their beeswax candles to the church service and the priest would perform a ceremony to bless the candles. The people would then take their candles home to remind them of Christ, the Light of the World.
Because Candlemas was celebrated in early February, it came at a time when Europeans were becoming weary of winter and longing for the arrival of spring. They began to devise folk sayings about things that might predict a change in the weather. Oddly enough, they decided that if Feb. 2 was a cloudy, dark day it meant spring was on the way. And if it happened to be sunny and bright, they were in for another month of winter or another blast of winter weather.
Here are two old sayings about the weather on Candlemas:
“If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight.”
“If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter won’t come again.”
How the Groundhog became connected with Candlemas on Feb. 2
It was in Germany where folk culture applied the spring predicting traditions of Candlemas to whether or not an animal saw their shadow. These varied from a badger, a bear or a fox. The groundhog eventually became the chosen animal and German immigrants later brought the tradition to the US.
Here’s a translation of the German saying, “If the badger sunbathes during Candlemas-week, for four more weeks he will be back in his hole.” Later the saying was made into a longer period – 6 weeks of winter instead of 4.
Candlemas celebrations today
Candlemas is still celebrated today in areas with rich histories of church tradition.
In France and Belgium, crepes and pancakes are traditionally eaten, symbolizing the return of the sun and also as a means of blessing and good luck.
In Mexico, Candlemas is a holiday named El Dia de la Candelaria. It is celebrated with parades, dancing and family gatherings.
February 2 is called Liichtmessdag in Luxembourg. Children go from door to door carrying lanterns. They sing a song and wish the family happiness and health. The residents then give them sweets.
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