We are huddled like fledglings in a nest box, wrapped in layers of sensible clothing, against the sub-zero temperature. Our breath rises like incense. Coloured rays of winter sun filter through the prism of a stained glass window. It’s Candelmas Day and all the candles in the sanctuary are lit. Such extravagance! One expensive candle broke when it fell on the floor but is now repaired with Sellotape, which will melt with the wax. A thrifty tip from Aberdeenshire.
We say Psalm 84, “How lovely is thy dwelling place” but really we want to sing it to Brahms’ tranquil tune, to provide solace for the living. He wrote Ein deutsches Requiem following the untimely death of his close friend and mentor, Robert Schumann. Although dealing with the transient nature of life, his work is a message of hope for us all. We wriggle for warmth in the chancel the psalmist goes on, “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar.”
Today is the story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, beautifully told by Luke. And we imagine Joseph, husband of Mary, standing nearby with his small wicker cage containing two doves. They have brought Jesus to the Jerusalem temple in order that they might do what the law requires for their first born son.
I think also of the later event depicted in Holman Hunt’s painting The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple and wonder what, apart from Luke’s report, Mary is whispering in her precocious son’s ear?
Our intercessions are offered for the world and its people, for those who suffer and those in need, for the Church and our diminished congregation, one is in a high dependance ward recovering from a nine hour spinal operation, another receiving treatment for cancer and another at home after a minor op. We pray for the ones whom we love and the ones we sometimes forget. We think of our mortality, then recall the psalmist’s concluding message of hope, “blessed is the one who trusts in you.”
Over coffee in the vestry, we look out on to the bare patch of ground where we hope to build an extension for a kitchen, disabled wc and small meeting room. Our eyes are drawn away to a clump of snowdrops by the boundary wall, seasonally white for purity and Candlemas. Reassuring in their joy.