25 Jan 2020 • Articles
The first Sunday in February this year falls on the feast of Candlemas, February 2nd.In some ways, Candlemas can be thought of as the last festival of Christmas, because it is the final day in the Christian calendar when we think of Jesus as a baby. The old custom was to dedicate children to God forty days after their birth, so Joseph and Mary presented Jesus in the temple in Jerusalem when he was nearly six weeks old.
Jesus was greeted by the prophetess Anna and by a good man named Simeon. As he held Jesus, Simeon's heart overflowed with wonder and gratitude, and he praised God, calling Jesus a revealing light and God's glory, so candles are often lit in honour of Jesus on the day of his Presentation.
There is another date in February which many people like to celebrate, although few remember that the day first began as a Christian festival. February 14th is Saint Valentine's Day. Valentine was a priest, probably the Bishop of Terni in Italy, in the third century, when Christians were being persecuted, imprisoned and killed by the Roman Emperor Claudius II
Valentine visited Christians who were in prison and likely to be put to death for their faith. He carried messages for men who had been parted from their fiancées, and conducted weddings for many couples who did not want to die without marrying their loved ones. Valentine gained an audience with the Emperor and tried to explain that Christianity was no threat because God has a heart full of love for everyone, but the Emperor replied by sentencing Valentine to death: he was severely beaten and then beheaded in Rome in 269AD.
It is a sign of the triumph of the love at the heart of the Christian faith, that it is not the Emperor's fears and his evil actions which are remembered, but the good deeds of Valentine. Saint Valentine's faith and courage and his works of love began our custom of exchanging tokens of affection on February 14th.
May your February be full of love and peace and light,