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January 13, 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006

January 29, 2006
Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Year B)

(Above) Arian Baptistry in Ravenna, Italy (mosaic)

Candlemas / The Presentation / Etc.
(celebrated February 2, 2006)

Candlemas is the celebration of the Christ child's "Presentation" at the temple, observed since the earliest days of the Church, where his greatness is recognized by Simeon the Just and Anna the Prophetess (one is recollected that Jesus' status as the Messiah in the Qu'ran is marked by different means, namely his ability to talk as an infant, see Sura 19:29-33). In the Roman and Anglican churches, the occasion is marked by the blessing of candles. Candlemas

The Christian celebration overlaps to some extent with ealier customs, notably Imbolc. The holiday was an pre-Christian Celtic festival of light, reflecting the lengthening of the day and the hope of spring. It was traditional to light all the lamps of the house for a few minutes on Imbolc; rituals often involve a great deal of candles. Modern natural theists often argue that Candlemas is a Christianized version of Imbolc (in Ireland, Imbolc is also said to be today celebrated as St. Brigid's feast day, a secondary patron saint for the island, which also falls on February 2). Traces of the festival of the growing light can found in the Groundhog Day, which falls on the very same day. If a groundhog sees its shadow on this morning, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. The custom comes directly from Scotland, where an old couplet goes: "If Candlemas Day is bright and clear, there'll be two winters in the year." Imbolc

The Song of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis, is often associated with Candlemas (and typically used as a closing hymn), and is found at Luke 2:29-32. The following hymn, Catherine Winkworth's translation from the German, entitled "O Light of Every Nation" No. 602R, echoes this passage. Here the Christian and pre-Christian images merge-- The Annointed of God appears as the "light of every nation" and a "beacon in distress" whom we recognize, though the hopes of spring, at least in the northern half of the planet, remain still distant hopes indeed.

Title: "O Light of Every Nation," Johann Franck (1674), originally "Herr Jesu, Licht der Heiden," translated from German to English by Catherine Winkworth (1863), rev. REH (2006), VALET WILL ICH DIR GEBEN, D, Melchior Teschner (1613)

O light of every nation, re-deem-er from above,
drawn by the spir-it’s lead-ing, we come with joy and love
into your holy temple and wait with earn-est mind
as Sim-eon once had wait-ed on the Sove-reign to find.

O, God, your seek-ers meet you in eve-ry ho-ly place
where your true words have promis-ed that we should find your grace.
Today you still do grant us who gather around you here
in arms of faith to bear you as did that agèd seer.

O be our joy and bright-ness, our cheer in loss and pain,
our sun in deep-est ter-ror, the glo-ry of your reign,
a star for sink-ing spirits, a bea-con in dis-tress,
physician, friend in sick-ness, in death our happiness.

Let us, O God, be faithful like Simeon to the end,
So that this prayer exultant may from our hearts ascend:
"O God, now let your ser-vant depart in peace, I pray,
since I have seen th'A-noint-ed here on this ve-ry day."

from Singing the Living Tradition:
"Mother of All" No. 91
"I Am That Great and Fiery Force" No. 27

11th century German mystic Hildegard of Bingen supplies the text of "I Am That Great and Fiery Force," which reads "where I breathe there is no death ... for I am Life." "Mother of All" is a recast of the Lord's Prayer in feminine imagery.

Deuteronomy 18:15-2

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"All Creatures of the Earth and Sky" No. 151R
"Oh, criaturas del buen Dios" No. 151R

Psalm 111

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"All Creatures of the Earth and Sky" No. 151R
"Oh, criaturas del buen Dios" No. 151R
"All My Hope Is Firmly Founded" No. 219R

The following revised hymn "Unknown, Yet Known" was originally written in 1891 (under the original name "Lord of Our Life, God Whom We Fear") by Samuel F. Smith. Smith, a Northern (now American) Baptist, attended Harvard University and Andover Theological, and was a classmate and friend of Unitarian Oliver Wendell Holmes. The hymn takes from this week's lectionary psalm, no. 111; the tune is LOUVAN (C.M.) by Virgil C. Taylor, published in Choral Anthems (Boston, Massachusetts: 1850).

Unknown, yet known; unseeen, yet near;
God of all love, yet whom we fear;
Breath of our breath, in you we live;
Life of our life, our praise receive.

Your eye detects the sparrow’s fall;
Your heart of love expands for all;
Our throbbing life is full and free;
Throned in your vast infinity.

Shine in our evening, Light of light,
Our minds illumine, disperse our night;
Make us feel deeper ere your will;
Our souls with all your fullness fill.

We shout your name, follow your rod;
Your word, our guide, O gracious God!
We seek your peace; on you we call:
Our Light, our Life, our Love, our All.

Some versions of the Bible have transformed the "fear" of God in Psalm 111 into a "reverence" for God as the beginning of wisdom; others suggest that it is God's mystery, God's unknownable quality, that in itself invokes at least some measure of (properly stated) "fear" as an initial matter in our encounters with the divine. There is something genuine about this description, not of the divine nature, but of human nature-- what we do not know is often frightening to us. But what Psalm 111 suggests is that this "fear" of the unknown and is some senses unknownable mystery that is God can be the beginning, all the same, of "wisdom," for those who seek after the divine mystery, despite the wholly (and holy) "otherness" of that mystery.

Those who, of course, feel strongly about the word "fear," and wish, for example, to make the above lyrics accord with the AIV edition of the Bible, are welcome to change the second line to "God of all love; God we revere."

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"All Creatures of the Earth and Sky" No. 151R
"Oh, criaturas del buen Dios" No. 151R
"Blest Be the Ties That Bind" No. 563R

Mark 1:21-28

from Hymns of the Spirit Three:
"Jesus, the Very Thought of You" No. 205R
"All Beautiful the March of Days" No. 131R

from Singing the Living Tradition:
"Dear Mother-Father of Us All" No. 274

Copyright © 2006 Richard E. Hurst, www.hos3.com/hotw
This listing and other materials above may be printed, copied, distributed, reprinted in church or local group bulletins or newsletters, or otherwise used for nonprofit local worship or education with the inclusion of the copyright citation and the website as its source. It may not be used for profit or republication without prior permission (blondlieut@aol.com).

Posted by rehurst at January 13, 2006 03:49 AM


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