"Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness."
"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."
Yesterday was the beautiful, melancholic Christian feast of Candlemas, recalling when Mary was purified and blessed after childbirth, so that she could return to the Temple and present her baby Jesus there for the first time. When Mary and Joseph arrived at the Temple, one of the elders, Simeon, held the baby up spoke of him as the Messiah, "the light". The obvious significance of the feast of candles is that Christ is forever the Light of the World. As well as the church candles being blessed at Candlemas, when I was at school, people brought their own candles to church for blessing; I'm not sure how often this happens these days. Sometimes we all need a little help re-igniting or nurturing that spark of hope or love, to keep it burning through all weathers.
Before the birth of Christ, the pagan Celtic festival of "Imbolc" was celebrated at this time. Imbolc began at sunset on 1st February, itself the celebration of the pagan goddess Brighid, which would eventually become the Christian feast of St Brigid. "Imbolc" translates as "in the belly", referring to a time of renewal and the promise of abundance from the earth goddess. Imbolc marked the halfway point between the darkness of the Winter Solstice in December and the new light of the Spring Equinox in March. Fire played a huge part in the pagan festival; as well as being purifying, it signified the increasing power of the sun as the days lengthened. Christians began celebrating Candlemas as early as the fourth century. It's a bittersweet celebration; looking back to the recent joy and gift wrapping of Christmas, drawing breath before the penitential self denial of Lent.
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
"Simple Gifts" Alison Krauss (with cellist Yo-yo Ma)