The Calendar and Lectionary I in the Appendix to The Promise of His Glory allow the feast on 2 February to be seen as an important and fully integrated festival of the Christmas cycle. It is not some optional extra, but the natural climax, after forty days, of the Christmas/Epiphany season. Although they allow an approach that ends the annual celebration of the Incarnation after twelve days, they encourage an imaginative use of the weeks of January as an exploration of the Epiphany themes, and see Candlemas as a fitting end to it and an important turning point in the Christian year.
This is a feast rich in meaning, with several related themes running through it -- presentation, purification, meeting, light for the world. The several names by which it has been known in Christian history illustrate just how much it has to teach and to celebrate.
But the strongest attraction of Candlemas is the 'bitter-sweet' nature of what it celebrates. It is a feast day, and the revelation of the child Jesus in the Temple, greeted by Simeon and Anna, calls for rejoicing. Nevertheless, the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce, lead on to the passion and to Easter. The scriptures and the liturgy of the Christmas season have several pointers to the suffering of the Lord, but none more potent than the words of Simeon. Coming as they do at the very end of the Christmas celebration and with Lent nearly always very close, they make Candlemas a kind of pivot in the Christian year. It is as if we say, on 2 February, 'One last look back to Christmas, and now, turn towards the cross!' On such a reckoning, the liturgical colour changes after the Eucharist at Candlemas from the white of Epiphanytide to a more penitential colour as Lent approaches.
Where Candlemas is given this pivotal place, Sundays up to Candlemas need to be 'of Epiphany', and Sundays after Candlemas 'before Lent'. We also give encouragement for this feast to be celebrated on the nearest Sunday to 2 February, to enable it to make its impact.
In the old liturgies some of the 'bitter-sweet' flavour of the day was sometimes expressed through a striking change of liturgical colour, the procession in purple vestments and the eucharist in white. In origin this probably reflects little more than the habitually penitential nature of Processional rites, even when associated with a feast. It is this tradition that we have tried to use creatively in the Eucharist of Candlemas. We have moved the procession to the end of the Eucharist, where Nunc Dimittis in any case seems more appropriate, given it a penitential feel and made it, especially by the Responsory that follows it, the point of transition from Christmas to Easter. As such it is a very powerful ending to all that The Promise of His Glory celebrates.
For those for whom a procession at the end seems impractical, we have provided an alternative structure with the procession at the beginning. But something important about the place of Candlemas as the hinge point in the Christian cycle is lost where a procession does not conclude the liturgy. Some of the subtleties of the day are missing.
In addition to the eucharist, a Vigil Service for Candlemas is provided. This is on the same model as the other Vigil Services in this book but, in some ways, is the greatest of them, building as it does on the light theme that belongs to this festival. Instead of psalmody, biblical chants, mainly from the Byzantine rite, have been used between the readings, and, as at the Eucharist, a procession with lighted candles may be made at the end, as Nunc Dimittis is sung.