In the pagan calendars Candlemas is a halfway feast—halfway between solstice and equinox—halfway between winter and spring—halfway between darkness and light. The Celtic name for the feast, Imbolc—meaning “in the womb”—captures it perfectly. We are in the womb and celebrating it—not yet fully alive but by no means dead.
So today we celebrate in-between-ness. Inbetweenness as a place, a place of meeting, a place of encounter between life and death, light and dark, old and new.
Now the encounter between light and dark usually gets mythologised as struggle or bitter opposition or even warfare. But neither the Pagan nor the Christian festival does quite that. The Eastern Church names this feast “The Encounter” for the meeting between the infant Jesus and the old folk who recognise him—an encounter that comes with relief and not struggle. Simeon and Anna welcomes the new born light and see in him the fulfilment of their own lives.
But if the pattern isn’t struggle it isn’t quite one of replacement either. We are still waiting. The “light of revelation to the Gentiles and glory to Israel” may well have shone but the day of the Lord is delayed, the kingdom is only coming. Just like the groundhog: today the sun revealed his shadow but even so winter will reign.
And maybe that’s not all bad. Maybe Malachi has it about right when he talks of the coming of God: “The Lord whom we seek”—yes. “The messenger in whom we delight”—oh yes. … But “who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?”
That confluence of desire and dread marks out the in-between in our own hearts. We do not have undivided hearts. All mixed up in us are life and death, light and dark, old and new, winter and spring. That’s how it is—and maybe that’s how it should be. Maybe we are less battleground than we are womb. And maybe in the dark all sorts of glories might ripen if we hold them with care and wait their term.
Add comment February 2nd, 2000