The lections through Epiphanytide radiate with themes of light. As we are gradually drawing away from the longest night, it may seem as though we remain in an unending season of longest nights, for even days filled with sunlight are fleeting. But the days are getting longer, even if this reality is not always perceptible, and the light is returning. While we move forward, slowly, through this dark time, the Scriptures continue to sing out about the light that comes into the world, the light that enlightens our darkness; both the darkness around us, and the darkness within us.
We move forward into a time of year that is difficult for many. There are many who make the pilgrimage south and abroad, not only to escape the cold, but to seek warmth and light. I am convinced that “seasonal affective disorder” is no imagined malady, but truly the result of living in a climate in which we are deeply deprived of light at this time of year. We desperately need to know the light is returning. We desperately need to hear from the lips of a trusted friend that darkness will not cover the face of the Earth forever. We need to know that a day will come when we will feel the warmth of the rising sun once again on our faces.
The darkness of the days and the length of the nights may make our personal moments of darkness seem all the more impenetrable. During this season we have felt some loss in our community through the deaths of dear friends. Many will be on personal journeys through illness, unemployment, and trying times of various sorts. Oh, that the light would come!
Yet, we continue to celebrate that light, even when it seems so fleeting. We continue to bask in its rays, even when the clouds clear for just a moment. We continue to read the words of our sacred story about the light, the true light, our Saviour, even though as the annual joyous celebration of his coming slips at once quietly into our past and distantly into our future.
Then appears a day on our horizon: it is not the end of the night, but let us call it the early morning watch. February 2nd is known to most as “groundhog day” – will he or will he not see his shadow? Shall winter end soon, or shall it continue for six more weeks? Christian people celebrate this day for another reason, though, and we call it The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, or Candlemas. Like its secular sister, it falls at the midway point of the duration of Winter, but unlike its secular sister, Groundhog Day, which is filled with ambiguity about the return of the light, on Candlemas we proclaim boldly, once again, that the light has not been put out; that the light shines in the darkness; and that the darkness never has, and never will, overcome it. The spring shall come! The sun shall rise! Light breaks forth! Alleluia!
In the springtime, the Easter reality that we proclaim, that Jesus is Risen, is reinforced in the lengthening of days, the return of the light, and the return to life of the earth. But here at mid-winter, at Candlemas, we have no such signs, only faith and hope. Thus, in such a faith and with certain hope we gather to bless and light candles and proclaim our hope in the light of the world, in an Eastertide that is but a distant vision, but we do so without ambiguity but basked in the Light that never goes out.
c. 2011, the Rev. Daniel F. Graves