Feast of the Purification of the Virgin
Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2. A Jewish woman is in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, both on behalf of Mary and on behalf of Jesus as a first-born male. As they did so, they were greeted by the aged Simeon. In a Sunday-School pageant, I 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 has often been rendered in verse. I append one example.
Lord God, thou now hast set thy servant free, G-GGAGceddc-- to part in peace according to thy word. eefgGcBAAG-- Mine eyes have seen the Saviour, Christ the Lord ddef--cccfed-- prepared by thee for all the worlds to see; dpdBGceddc-- to shine on nations lost in darkest night, cfgaadggrg-- the glory of thy people, and their light. Gcdedfeddc--
(The versification is by Rae E Whitney, found in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. The melody shown at the right is Song 1 by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625). Note that:
We denote two octaves of white keys by CDEFGABcdefgab. We denote black keys (beginning with c sharp) by pqrst. We use a dash to continue the previous note for another beat.)
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, Groundhog Day ("If the groundhog (or woodchuck, a kind of marmot, which burrows and hibernates) sees his shadow on 2 February, there will be six more weeks of winter.") is strictly a secular holiday, confined, as far as I know, to the United States.
Almighty and everliving God, we humbly beseech thee that, as Thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.
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.
First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4 ("Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.")
Psalm 84:1-6 ("O how amiable are thy dwellings, thou Lord of hosts!")
Epistle: Hebrew 2:14-18 ("Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy the power of death.")
The Holy Gospel: Luke 2:22-40 ("And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.")