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Candlemass – Festival of Light

2010 February 2
by Gordon Reid

I love Candlemass, the candles held by everyone during the Procession, the Gospel and the Consecration, signifying Christ the Light of the World. And the over-familiar words of the Nunc Dimittis (over-familiar at least to those of us who say Evensong or Compline every day): “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”

The whole Gospel is in that little burst of praise from old Simeon in the Temple:

1) Simeon’s life is complete, because he has seen the promised Messiah; he can die happy.

2) What he has seen is “salvation”, the mighty act of God that Israel was waiting for, something, or rather someone, who would spread the “salve”, the ointment of healing, to all people.

3) Here the trumpet of salvation rings out; the Gospel, the Good News, is proclaimed, because this healing is for all nations, not just for Israel. Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God. But his salvation was for a new Israel, constituted not by physical heredity, but by faith and trust in his Father.

4) That was the true glory of the people of Israel, now transformed into the Catholic Church, to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

And so we hold our little candles, as the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus are re-presented at the altar, itself lit up with candles, and a spark of the light of God is imparted to us in the Body and Blood of Christ.

Then I will proclaim in the Last Gospel, as at almost every Mass: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not …. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”.

And in our little corner of this sometimes dark world, the people of St Clement’s will make the last heartfelt response to the whole gift of light – “Thanks be to God”.

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