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Pastoral Letter, February 1, 2024

To the Saints in San Carlos, and friends:


Candlemas is coming.   Candlemas is an old festival whose origin and meaning remains obscure, somewhat like Boxing Day.   There are two common explanations:  It is the Sunday nearest to February 1st when it is time to take down the Christmas decorations, including the Christmas candles, and give everything a good burn, including the candles.   Thus, the Christmas season ends in a blaze of the light of candles in church and a bonfire outside.   The other explanation is that it is the Sunday nearest to February 1st when you take all the candles for the year ahead and get them blessed in church.   Perhaps you can do both on the same Sunday.


In the old Celtic world, the time around the beginning of February marked the festival of Imbolg, which coincides with the halfway point of winter and Saint Brigid's Day, the feast day for the female patron saint of Ireland.


This same Sunday in the Christian calendar is also called the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.   The readings for the day include the prophecies of Malachi and St. Luke's story of Simeon recognizing Jesus as the Messiah.


Malachi 3:1-4 

Thus says the Lord, See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.   The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight-- indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.   But who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?

For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap;  he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.   Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.


Luke 2:26-34 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;  this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.   It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.   Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple;  and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;  for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.   Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-- and a sword will pierce your own soul too."

The response of Simeon, known as the Song of Simeon has been beloved for centuries in the Shakespearean language of the Book of Common Prayer:


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.


Here is a lovely recording in Latin by an English vocal group, Voces 8, followed by a Gloria:


Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, 

secundum verbum tuum in pace: 

Quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum 

Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: 

Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel. 

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto: 

Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. 


Do join us for worship this Sunday at the usual time, 10:30am.

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