Jesus, Families…and Ground Hogs?

Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, Andrei RublevForty days after Christmas on February 2nd, Christians recall the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. In a number of Christian denominations the season of Epiphany comes to an end.  According to scripture, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth and to perform the redemption of the firstborn in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15).


As Mary and Joseph were poor, Mary was relieved of offering a lamb and a dove for her offering. Instead, she was to “take two turtle-doves or two pigeons, one for a burnt-offering and the other for a sin-offering; and the priest shall make atonement on her behalf, and she shall be clean” (Leviticus 12:8).

Around the globe, Christians will likely remember these early events as reported in Luke 2: 22-40. In fact, it is one of the most ancient feasts of the Christian church. With the traditional end of Epiphany, many remove any remaining Christmas greenery from their homes. If you are visiting the Taize’ Community in France, you will likely see a cage with two doves or pigeons in their Church of Reconcilliation. After the service, the birds are released. As the story reflects the light of Christ breaking into the world, it remains a common practice at many services throughout the world to bless candles for use during the year. To this day, some countries share special meals during family celebrations (i.e. crepes in France, or tamales in Mexico).

Pennsylvania Dutch folklore attached an ancient, pagan European practice of weather prognostication to this day. If the groundhog sees its shadow, superstition indicates winter weather will continue for six more weeks. (In ancient Europe, one might have heard of a badger or sacred bear serving this purpose.) Yet, such beliefs weren’t only held in Germanic nations. In England, one old English poem exclaims:

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Winter has another flight.
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Winter will not come again.

No matter the weather, I hope you and your family will develop your own ways of recalling the Presentation of Jesus. It reminds us of the Holy Family’s piety, and our family’s call as well. It displays a family united by love, as our own should be. The feast most importantly can remind us of how that young male child redeemed on that day came to redeem us through his cross and resurrection. We really should celebrate!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations for this article are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translation.

© 2013 The Rev. Louis Florio. All content not held under another’s copyright may not be used without permission of the author.


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Filed under Church History, Liturgical Year

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