“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32
Dear Redeemer Family:
A few points to ponder, the text above is part of our liturgy which we sing in this part of the year. It forms what is called the “Nunc Dimittis,” or more commonly, “Simeon’s Song.” The event of the words we celebrate on February 2nd, “Presentation of Our Lord.” Forty days after the birth of Christ we mark the day Mary and Joseph presented him in the temple in accordance with Jewish law. There a prophet named Anna began to speak of the redemption of Israel when she saw the young child. Simeon also greeted Mary and Joseph. He responded to the presence of the consolation of Israel in this child with the words of the Nunc Dimittis. His song described Jesus as a “light for the nations” (read an Epiphany).
Because of the link between Jesus as the light for the nations, and because an old reading for this festival contains a line from the prophet Zephaniah, “I will search Jerusalem with candles,” the day is also known as Candlemas, a day when candles are blessed for the coming year. Now, if you hear the word Candlemas, you know what it means.
Another candle, if you will, which we celebrate this month is on February 14th. No, not St. Valentine’s Day (although almost everyone forgets that he is a saint), but Cyril, monk who died in 869; and Methodius, bishop, who died in 885; missionaries to the Slavs. These two brothers from a noble family in Thessalonika (remember St. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians?) in northern Greece were priests and missionaries. After some early initial missionary work by Cyril among the Arabs, the brothers retired to a monastery. They were later sent to work among the Slavs, the missionary work for which they are most known. Since Slavonic had no written form at the time, the brothers established a written language with the Greek alphabet as its basis (but, they also changed some letters; try reading Russian, same alphabet). They translated the scriptures and the liturgy using this Cyrillic alphabet (it was mainly Cyril’s work). The Czechs, Serbs, Croats, Slovaks and Bulgars regard the brothers as the founders of Slavic literature. The brother’s work in preaching and worshiping in the language of the people are honored by Christians in both East and West.
And another light, February 18th, Martin Luther, Renewer of the Church, died on this date in 1546 at the age of 62. For a time, he was an Augustinian monk, but it is his work as a biblical scholar, translator of the Bible, public confessor of the faith, reformer of the liturgy, theologian, educator, and father of German vernacular literature that holds him in our remembrance. Live in the light!