i had hoped to write this post before february 2nd so those who might be interested in observing candlemas, too, would have some information & motivation. however, i found this particular holy day to baffle me a bit as to how i should experience it. and so it wasn’t until after the fact that i had anything potentially meaningful to share.
as i understand candlemas — also referred to as the presentation of Jesus at the temple, the feast of the purification of the virgin, & the meeting of the Lord — it is a major feast day, especially in the roman catholic tradition. the event remembered is told in luke 2:22-40, telling not only of the necessary sacrifice given on behalf of the newly born son, but of the prophetic interactions with simeon & anna.
there are many traditions tied to candlemas, especially several that have been phased out over time. it derives its name from the practice of the priests blessing the beeswax candles that are to be used throughout the year. however, many of the associated cultural rituals seem very superstitious to me, & while i love ritual & tradition, i am not superstitious in the least.
i’ve shared my various reasons for observing religious calendar, & so as i learned about candlemas, i wasn’t sure how to bring it into my life. blessing candles did not seem to be a necessary or appropriate or in any way enriching practice for me to do. reading the story is fine & always beneficial, but i desired something more to mark the season. for some sects of christianity, it marks the end of the epiphany season [more can be read about my experience of epiphany here]. and it is shortly followed by the lenten season. [this year, ash wednesday is february 13th — next week!]
as i read on, i stumbled upon one small fact that piqued my interest & heart more than all the others. apparently, pope john paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows. and in the presence of the Messiah, we would surely do so!
i’ve had many lively conversations about whether christians do or do not, should or should not make vows. it’s a subject i enjoy discussing! i personally believe that accepting Christ as Savior & committing to live under His Lordship is itself a vow. therefore, every believer has taken a religious vow. i’m also a fan of short-term vows & renewing one’s commitment to the Lord.
i have often shared with others that i accepted Christ as my Savior & was baptized at age 12. and while i spent most of my years after that trying to “live right” [minus a couple rebellious teenage years], i did not truly understand the “Lord” part of the relationship or how it was a relationship at all! i’d heard it taught, so there is no fault in my parents or bible teachers, but i didn’t really understand what it meant to live for Him rather than to try to live right. i was very pharisaic. until a breaking point when i was 25. [it is so sad to me that it took so long!] i experienced a crisis of faith & had to make a choice. a new choice. a new vow. and so i vowed to seek & serve Him rather than to seek my own righteousness & rightness. i put it into writing, sealed it, & dated it. i’ve kept that written covenant ever since. of course, i’ve failed in keeping up my end of the bargain. more than once. but each time i fail, He does not fail me! He woos me back to repentance, healing, & wholeness in Him. and each time, i break the seal on my written vow, reread it, recommit myself to Him in prayer, reseal it, & add the new date.
so with that background on my self-imposed rituals in my relationship with God, you might imagine that the idea of renewing one’s religious vows would indeed pique my interest & heart! and i thought perhaps it would be just as healthy & helpful to reread my vow to God every year, even if i haven’t failed miserably in it. so for me, candlemas is an opportunity to do just that. and it was immensely rewarding! we actually do this renewing of commitment every week when we corporately partake in the Lord’s supper together. why not also do it with longer time for deeper reflection once a year?
well, take it as you like. i have certainly been enriched by the experience & feel a refreshment in my relationship with God! [i guess it must feel something like renewing one’s marriage vows or going on a second honeymoon with your spouse.] may we all find intentional ways of being & staying committed to the Living God, our Redeemer & Friend.