The Presentation of our Lord - February 2
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly pray that, as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented to you with pure and clean hearts by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
You may hear today called The Presentation of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, or The Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, or as Candlemas Day. The events commemorated today are recorded in Luke 2:22-39.
Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is the second of February. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for forty days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February second that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem to offer sacrifice on behalf of Mary to mark the end of her seclusion (see Le 12:1-8), and to ransom or redeem (buy back) Jesus as a first-born male (see Ex 13:11-13; 22:29; Nu 18:15-16; Dt 15:19). As they did so, they were greeted by the aged Simeon. In a Sunday-School pageant the author James Kiefer once saw, the narrator said, "And now Simeon bursts into a spontaneous song of praise, assisted by the Temple Choir." His song, called the Nunc Dimittis, has always had a prominent role in Christian worship. It is usually rendered in verse and is often set to music. Here is an example that is a bit different from the one used in The Book of Common Prayer:
to part in peace according to thy word.
Mine eyes have seen the Savior, Christ the Lord
prepared by thee for all the worlds to see;
to shine on nations lost in darkest night,
the glory of thy people, and their light.
Because an old reading for this festival contains the line (Zephaniah 1:12), "I will search Jerusalem with candles," the day is also known as Candlemas, and sometimes observed with a candle-lit procession.
On the other hand, today is also Groundhog Day. If the groundhog (or woodchuck, a kind of marmot, which burrows and hibernates) sees its shadow on February 2, there will be six more weeks of winter. This is strictly a secular holiday, brought to the United States and Canada by German immigrants.
Editor’s Note: Images for the two days can be strikingly similar. *