For pictures of the
service and lunch
on Sunday, February
The Feast we celebrate at the beginning of February has no fewer
than four different names. Each name recalls a different aspect
of this Feast.
First of all, the Feast
is called the PRESENTATION OF CHRIST.
This is because it commemorates the Presentation of Christ by
His Mother in the Temple at Jerusalem exactly forty days after
In the Temple Christ was carried in the arms of the Righteous
Simeon and watched over by the Prophetess Anna.
This Feast is yet more proof that the Son of God truly became
man. An infant, not a spirit or an angel, is brought to the
This meeting between the
Righteous Simeon and Anna and the Saviour is why this Feast has
another name: THE MEETING OF THE LORD.
According to age-old tradition, Simeon was one of those seventy
translators who, in the third century before Christ,
had translated the Scriptures of the Old Testament into
Coming to the words in the seventh chapter of Isaiah the
Prophet, he had been awestruck by the affirmation that a Virgin
would give birth.
The Holy Spirit had told him that he would live until he saw
these words fulfilled.
At the Presentation, which is the fulfilment of these words, the
aged Simeon utters the words,
familiar to those of us who have been brought up on Evensong:
‘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, a light
to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel’.
Soon after uttering these
words, he reposed, as did the Righteous Anna, who had also been
o see the fulfilment of the promise of the Holy Spirit that she
too would see the Messiah in great old age.
According to the Old
Testament, the Jews were commanded to present their male
at the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after their Birth.
This was to give thanks to God and pray for the purification of
the mother and health of the child,
for it was considered that after the vital forty-day period it
was almost certain that all mortal danger was passed.
This is why this Feast has yet another name, found in the Church
of England’s ‘Book of Common Prayer’:
THE PURIFICATION OF S. MARY THE VIRGIN.
In past years in the
Church of England, we have had the custom of ‘churching’, which
is similar to this rite of purification of the mother,
although in all my years of being ordained I have only
once had a request for this service (contained within the Book
of Common Prayer).
When the Alternative Service Book was introduced in 1980 the
‘Churching of Women’ was replaced with a rather more positive
‘Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child’ service in which the
emphasis was not on being ‘made clean’ but rather on both
parents giving thanks.
There is also a fourth name for this feast — CANDLEMASS.
This name was given to this Feast in memory of the ancient
custom of lighting candles at it,
which recalls the lights in the Temple at Jerusalem.
The custom spread from Rome even to western parts of Russia and
in the Russian Orthodox service-books
there is a prayer for the blessing of candles on this day.
For many years at S. Faith’s the blessing of candles has been
part of the Candlemass liturgy.
But what does this Feast
mean for us today? Since it is exactly forty
days since Christmas, it is time for us to think
about the last forty days and ask ourselves some questions:
What, in our day, can we present to the Temple of Christ, the
In what condition do we present our souls to Christ? (Do we
actually think that much about our souls?)
What sacrifices have we made in the last forty days? Have
we thanked God for all that we have received?
What has changed in our way of life since the Birth of Christ
forty days ago? What progress has been made? Whatever our answers to
these questions, on this, the Feast of the Meeting of Christ,
one thing is certain:
If we are not spiritually prepared to meet Christ, then we
shall never meet Him.
The Opening Prayer
appointed for the Feast
Almighty Father, whose Son Jesus Christ
was presented in the Temple and acclaimed the glory
of Israel and the light of the
nations: grant that in him we may
be presented to you and in the world may
reflect his glory; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who is alive and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for