St Mary's Uttoxeter

February, Candles to Ashes

6 Feb 2019 • Articles

The season of Epiphany which comes after Christmas celebrates our Lord being made known to the world. Epiphany ends on February 2nd, with the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, the day which is traditionally called Candlemas.

Candlemas is on the fortieth day after Christmas because St. Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph followed the Jewish practice of taking their new baby to the temple forty days after his birth to pray and to give thanks to God. They were met by Simeon who said that Jesus would bring light, glory and salvation to the world.

In the days before electric light, winter was a time for making candles, and people would bring their new stock of candles to be blessed by the Church at the altar on Candlemas. As well as giving light, warmth and safety, candles could also be used to measure time before clocks were invented. A well-made candle would burn at an even rate and could be marked into sections to indicate the passing of the hours.

On Ash Wednesday, which falls at the beginning of March this year, Christians consider the passing of time in another way.Opportunities do not last for ever; how are we spending the hours, days and years of our lives? Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, and as we compare our imperfect lives with the importance and the obedience of Jesus we repeat the phrase, 'Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return. 'Thinking of how the passing of time affects our bodily lives reminds us to think of our spiritual lives and to prepare ourselves for the life God offers to our souls.