‘Tis another almost forgotten Feast Day today – Candlemas. A celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the temple following Mary’s purification. And the candles? Symbolic of old Simon’s dream (resident of the temple) – that in which the heavens declared the babe Jesus to be the light of the world. And so, folks in later ages were encouraged to bring their candles to mass to be blessed – to take back home into the dark and cold of winter and to find solace in the light and warmth their candles – Jesus – gave them.
As we lit candles this evening and talked about Candlemas and it’s meaning to us, I found myself, as a mother, totally immersed in that notion of our children bringing forth their light into the world. What this light will contribute to the world. How the world will respond to our child’s light. How this light will grow. How we, as parents, are charged with the responsibility of keeping this light safe – of nourishing it, allowing it to thrive. Will it become richer and stronger, or will it flicker and be almost quenched by the wild forces that sometimes gather outside our doors – or sometimes, those that we let in.
I thought of Mary – that young, young mother who had already withstood such drama – a rather odd conception, marriage to a much older man, travelling in the last days of her pregnancy, sharing her babe’s birth with a gathering of rather fantastical characters, having to flee in order to save her child from a despot’s wrath, and then, finally, presenting her child to the temple as was the custom, only to be told by some old and wild eccentric that her child was going to light up the world. Oy!
But mostly, I thought of my Abby and her light. Of the light that I recognised and felt the warmth of the moment she was laid in my arms, seconds after her birth. The light that we watched grow fulsomely as she strode cheerily through those early, early years at home. Then the heartwrenching moments as she has made her way – sometimes cautiously, sometimes so brave I stand in awe – into the larger world, and her light – a light that we adore and admire – is sometimes tipped precariously, other times almost snuffed out. Then the huge relief, when others – her friends, our friends, her teachers, our colleagues, strangers on the tram! – notice her light, their appreciation drawing it out as it quickens her step, curls her mouth with laughter, adds sparkles to her eyes, allows a rosy glow to emanate from within.
As a mum, I want the light inside my Abby, which makes her the special and marvellous individual she is, to warm her with peace and happiness, to guide her towards her dreams, to attract the love and support of those important to her.
And this year, as we talked and laughed over our Candlemas dinner and later, as we read Abby’s new English novel together, I vow that each time I light our candles and admire their cosy prettiness, I will be mindful of that light within my child, be it puttering timidly, fiercely burning, or richly glowing. For it is hers with which to light up the world. I, like so many mothers before me and beside me – including Mary – am its most loyal guardian. And that is how it should be.