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Sunday, 31 January 2021

Andrea Mantegna, ‘The Presentation of Christ in the Temple’, c1455,
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Dear Friends

‘See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.’

This passage, from the third chapter of Malachi, is invariably read out at the start of the service for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or Candlemas, which occurs on 2 February, although it is often transferred to the nearest Sunday – of course, I use the word ‘invariably’ advisedly as, sadly, this service will not be held at St Mary’s this year.

The service traditionally starts with the distribution, blessing and lighting of candles, with the congregation processing into church, either from outside or from a nearby hall (in recent years we have tended to use the parish rooms for this).  What is the significance of this part of the liturgy?  Well, by carrying a lighted candle we, as it were, re-enact the bringing of the Christ-child into the temple, as described in St Luke’s Gospel, when Mary and Joseph ‘present’ their first-born at the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is a joyful moment, but is also bitter-sweet, as Mary must come to terms with the prophetic words of Simeon, that the child she has borne will be destined ‘for the falling and rising of many in Israel’ and will be a ‘sign that will be opposed’.  Even Mary herself will not escape sharing in the suffering of her son, whose life is not to be one of ease and adulation but will lead to the cross – ‘a sword will pierce your own soul too’.

So the Feast of Candlemas represents a pivotal moment in our liturgical year.  It is a last look back at Christmas but also helps us to begin to turn towards Lent and the events of Passiontide.  

Ultimately, of course, those events would lead to the salvation of the whole world - but, for the time being, the child Jesus was taken back to Nazareth, where he ‘grew, and became strong and was filled with wisdom’.

Fr Stephen

Collect for Candlemas

Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple, 
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Malachi 3:1-5

A reading fromt he book ofthe prophet  Malachi.

Thus says the Lord God:

See, I am sending my messenger 
to prepare the way before me, 
and the Lord whom you seek 
will suddenly come to his temple. 
The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—
indeed, he is coming, 
says the Lord of hosts. 

But who can endure the day of his coming, 
and who can stand when he appears? 
For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; 

he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, 
and he will purify the descendants of Levi 
and refine them like gold and silver, 
until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness. 

Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem 
will be pleasing to the Lord 
as in the days of old and as in former years. 

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; 
I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, 
against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, 
against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, t
he widow and the orphan,
 against those who thrust aside the alien, 
and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. 

Luke 2:22-40

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke.

When the time came for their purification 
according to the law of Moses, 
mary and Joseph brought him up to Jerusalem 
to present him to the Lord 

(as it is written in the law of the Lord, 
"Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord"), 

and they offered a sacrifice 
according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, 
"a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons." 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; 
this man was righteous and devout, 
looking forward to the consolation of Israel, 
and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit 
that he would not see death 
before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. 

Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; 
and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, 
to do for him what was customary under the law, 

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 

"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." 

And the child's father and mother 
were amazed at what was being said about him. 

Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, 
"This child is destined 
for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, 
and to be a sign that will be opposed 

so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—
and a sword will pierce your own soul too." 

There was also a prophet, Anna 
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
She was of a great age, 
having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 

then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. 
She never left the temple 
but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 

At that moment she came, and began to praise God 
and to speak about the child 
to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 

When they had finished everything 
required by the law of the Lord, 
they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; 
and the favor of God was upon him. 

Service Times

First Sunday in the Month:
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Family Service

Second Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Third Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Sung Matins

Fourth Sunday in the Month
08:00am Holy Communion
10:00am Parish Eucharist

Variations can be found in the Parish Magazine or the Calendar at the bottom of this page.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. St Mary's Facebook page
  2. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  3. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  4. Prayer for today.
  5. The C of E youtube channel.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.

Please note that St Mary's are not responsible for the contents of external links

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