Thursday, February 7, 2013

Candlemas: The Close of Christmas

I had been excited to see Mepkin Abbey in action during a different part of the year.  We usually go in the fall, and I wanted to see what winter at the Abbey looked like.

We were there during the Feb. 2 celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple.  We didn't bless all the candles that the monastery would use during the coming year, as is the tradition in some churches, but we did have a special service. 

We met in the solarium of the senior wing, did a bit of the service, and lit candles.  Then we walked in a procession to the chapel to the Eucharist service.

Throughout the day, we were reminded of the light of Christ that we all carry within us.  We heard the story of Simeon, who held the light of the world, in the form of a tiny baby, in his hands.  It was a beautiful end to the Christmas season.

I'm thought of as odd for hanging on to the Christmas season until Epiphany, January 6.  The feast day of Candlemas, or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, reminds us that the season could be even longer.

I've often said that I wanted the Christmas season to last into February.  In January, the light still leaves us earlier than I'd like.  Christmas lights make the evening so cheery.

In November, the outdoor nativity scene is mostly empty:

During our February trip, I noticed that the nativity scene was complete:

I peeped into the manger, where I noticed that the baby Jesus looks a bit like a termite:

I love this nativity scene, and longtime readers of my blogs know that I've written about it before.  I love that this art project uses things that might otherwise be thrown away:  old gears (look at the halo around baby Christ's head), chain link fences, twisted and rusted metal of all types.

I wonder if the monks now take down this scene.  I imagine that the manger stays up and empty year round.  It would be hard to move that heavy piece of concrete.  The metal shapes could be easily stored elsewhere.

I also love how the monks use elements from their natural surroundings in the chapel space.  During the time that we were there, some of the buds on this branch opened up:

The holidays of early February (Groundhog Day, Candlemas, St. Brigid's Day) remind us that the light hasn't really left us.  Spring will be here soon.

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