Saturday, February 02, 2019
by Robert Herrick
Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn;
Which quench'd then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year;
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.
This poem describes the custom of taking down the last of the Christmas holly on Candlemas, and burning it. It should certainly be dry enough by now.
However, an alternate custom was to reserve the last of the holly and use it as kindling for the fire for the Shrove Tuesday pancakes. Some years, that would mean keeping the dried-out holly around almost another 4 weeks.
This is the feast of the Purification of the Virgin, which, under Jewish Law comes 40 days after childbirth. And Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas. The Church also (rather oddly, I think) adds the Feast of the Presentation. Odd, because under Jewish Law, the baby Jesus would have been presented and circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, or the Octave of Christmas. So, there were two Temple-related events after the Nativity, the Presentation on January 1st, and the Purification or Churching of Mary, on February 2nd. The Holy Family must have remained in Bethlehem (though they probably moved out of the stable, as the Magi story speaks of a "house") to be close to Jerusalem and the Temple for these two events. It can only be after this that the Flight to Egypt and the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents took place.
How did Candlemas get its name? Today was the day to bring to church for blessing the year's supply of candles, especially candles with a semi-sacramental nature, like the candles placed in the window on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years, and Epiphany in Irish homes, candles for the Advent wreath, candles for the home sick visit kit, or candles used in home shrines.
One of the European superstitions connected with Candlemas was that a fair, clear Candlemas meant a longer winter, where a cloudy Candlemas would mean the end of winter was at hand. In Europe, the end of February is often quite spring-like, where here in the US (especially here in New England), it tends to be more wintery, as our seasons run about 3 weeks behind the European seasons.
Here is a German saying:
When it storms and snows on Candlemas Day,
Spring is not far away;
if it's bright and clear,
Spring is not yet near.
This gave rise to the legend that if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2nd (now better known as Groundhog Day) it means 6 more weeks of winter (as opposed to only 4 more weeks if he does not see it).
Check out our friends at Fish Eaters for more on Candlemas customs.
Also, see The Golden Legend on the Purification of Our Blessed Lady.
Thursday, January 31, 2019
Read here Catholic Tradition's page on this saint.
Saint John Bosco, please pray for us!
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Here is a brief biography of this great saint of the Counter Reformation and Doctor of the Church.
His An Introduction To the Devout Life, which I read for the first time last year, is a Catholic classic. Here it is in e-text.
You don't really need that St. John's Wort.
One of the principle effects of holy abandonment in God is evenness of spirits in the various accidents of this life, which is certainly a point of great perfection, and very pleasing to God. The way to maintain it is in imitation of the pilots, to look continually at the Pole Star, that is, the Divine Will, in order to be constantly in conformity with it. For it is this will which, with infinite wisdom rightly distributes prosperity and adversity, health and sickness, riches and poverty, honor and contempt, knowledge and ignorance, and all that happens in this life. On the other hand, if we regard creatures without this relation to God, we cannot prevent our feelings and disposition from changing, according to the variety of accidents which occur.