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Letter from the Rector – February 2016

In spite of the excitement of our extra day this leap year, February remains a short month. And yet in terms of the calendar of the Church it is an important moment of transition, of balance between the great Christian themes.

It opens with the underemphasised feast of Candlemas, known variously as that and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and probably most properly as The Presentation of Christ in the Temple on the 2nd February. The episode upon which it is centred is the passage in Luke 2: 22 – 38,

when Mary and Joseph bring the baby Jesus into the temple in Jerusalem and encounter the aged Simeon and the eighty four year old prophetess, Anna, both of whom have lived lives of worship and hope in the courts of the temple, and who now, at this moment recognise in the Christ child, the long awaited fulfilment of God’s promise to his people Israel. Simeon responds with words of poetic intensity which have resonated through the worship of the church ever since. “Now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for my eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.’ Notice that right at the beginning of the Incarnation, just as witnessed by the coming to the stable of the Magi, the universality of the redemption present in Christ is emphasised—Jesus had come not just for God’s ancient people, but for all the nations; for Simeon and Anna, faithful children of the First Covenant but for you and me too.

The nickname of Candlemas derives from the mediaeval custom of gathering around the font on this day, praying and extinguishing the last candles of the Christmas season. It was also the tradition that cattle were let out of their winter quarters on this day, a sign of the coming Spring.

This year the early Easter brings us another nicknamed day, Ash Wednesday only a week after Candlemas. The Christian Year moves us into a season of reflection and discipline as we journey with Jesus at the very beginning of his adult ministry into the desert. This is a time given to us to let the light of God’s love into our hearts and confront the reality of our on natures. Scary ad exciting at the same time!

May this short month transform our lives……

Ashley.

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