Many people do not know that the legend of the groundhog goes back to our Catholic Liturgical roots on this day, February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
The legend has it that in the dark of morning on Candlemas, the faithful and the clergy would gather outside, light new candles, bless them and process to the far distant church. The groundhog hearing all the commotion awakes from his hibernation and sees all the people and the light outside and either enjoys it or is frightened by his shadow and rushes back into his hibernation. Depending on the outcome of what the groundhog does on Candlemas means either a shorter winter and early spring or a longer winter and late spring.
On this Candlemas, I did not rely on any groundhogs around the rectory to come out because more than likely these would be huge rats instead, no I took a picture of a tree at 7:30 AM right outside our rectory and thus you can see for sure, spring is here as this tree has blossoms. God, it is good to live in the south! Amen, Alleluia!
At the Oxford Oratory this morning (Solemn Latin OF ad orientem, with Byrd's five-part Mass) we sang a hymn by Newman during the procession which I have never encountered before, and which I found beautiful:
The Angel-lights of Christmas morn
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.
Comfort of life is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,
Old Simeon's tapers shine.
And then for eight long weeks and more
We wait in twilight gray,
Till the tall candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.
We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer;
While song is hushed, and light grows dim
In the sin-laden air.
And while the sword in Mary's side
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.
And still, though Candlemas be spent
And Alleluias o'er,
Mary is music in our need
And Jesus light in store.
The young priest who preached the homily (and the Oratorian priests are predominately young and highly-educated) referred ofen to this poem.
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