Forty days after Christmas comes the Feast of the Presentation (or Candlemas) for some, the true end of the Christmas season. Some churches will celebrate today; some probably already did this past Sunday.
The story is told in Luke 2:22-40, of Mary and Joseph bringing their baby son to the temple forty days after his birth. The prophet Anna and the old man Simeon had waited there for many years in expectation, and were rewarded by seeing the ancient prophecies fulfilled. Simeon and Anna are seen here with the child Jesus in a window from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire.
The feast of Candlemas actually predates Christianity, with various rituals observed at this time of year. Apparently you can even trace the origins of Groundhog Day to this ancient festival, but that's rather outside the scope of this blog.
This hymn by Christopher Wordsworth comes from his hymnal The Holy Year (1862) which, like several nineteenth century hymnals, gives specific hymns for each Sunday of the church year as well as for other feast days and saints' days. It's a bit grand for a midweek observance with its long stanzas, and might work better with a larger Sunday congregation.
O Jerusalem beloved,
Joyful morn has dawned on thee;
Sing with joy and exultation,
Sing a song of jubilee!
Jesus Christ, whom thou art seeking,
Christ for whom the nations pray,
Now in human flesh appearing,
To the temple comes today.
Glorious and bright the temple
With its gold and silver shone,
Which by royal hands was builded
Of the peaceful Solomon;
But thy latter House is brighter,
Dwelling there this heav'nly Guest,
Child of God, the everlasting
Rose of Sharon manifest.
Light, the entire world to lighten,
And thy glory, Israel,
Shines in Christ the heav'ly dayspring,
God with us, Emmanuel;
Now the entire world receives him
in its arms with faith's embrace
And with Simeon rejoices
In the light of Jesus' grace
May we, Christ, with holy Anna,
And with Simeon, wait for thee
In the solace of thy temple,
May our hearts thy temples be;
So, with saints and holy angels,
May we all forevermore
In Jerusalem the heav'nly,
Thee the Lord of all adore.
Christopher Wordsworth, 1862; alt.
Tune: ST. HILARY (18.104.22.168.D)
Ganther (?), 19th cent.
The tune ST. HILARY, which appeared in a few nineteenth century hymnals, was traced back at far as an 1855 German collection, Zionsharfe, edited by Conrad Kocher. The name of "Ganther" appeared with it there, apparently as composer, but nothing further has been uncovered about the bearer of that name.
One Year Ago: Hail to the Lord who comes
Two Years Ago: O Zion, open wide thy gates