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February 2, 1999

Groundhog Day/Candlemas

VS.

Well it is very overcast here, kind of dreary. But that is good news for it means that the local groundhog (the southern version) in Lilburn, GA did not see his shadow this morning. That portends according to the tradition that winter is almost over.

Groundhog Day has its origin from Germany where they believed that if an animal casts its shadow on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus bad weather was coming. The Feast of the Presentation which is celebrated today (Feb. 2) was the day when candles were blessed in church and is also called Candlemas (because the candles were blessed during mass).

On this day Churches would blaze resplendant with blessed candles burning brightly and only rivaling the Feast of Christmas in the beautiful light and warmth that would fill the church.

The genesis of the groundhog folklore would seem to be rooted in something else vying to be the source of light on this day other than Christ. If an animal saw its shadow on this day it would mean that something other than the Church brilliantly illuminated with candles symbolic of the light of Christ would by competing with Christ as the source of light. To the mind of the rural folk that was a very bad thing indeed and could only mean that something bad was approaching in nature.

There seems to be wisdom in all of this in that when we look for anything to provide us with salvation other than Christ we are setting ourselves up for disaster. A nice sunny day might easily seduce us into thinking that today might be a good day to skip church and prayer. That would be a grave mistake and a sure sign that winter for us is far from over.

So on this cloudy day in the country I am going to take out a candle and consecrate it so that it burns not of its own accord but rather as symbolic of the light of Christ that came into the world 40 days ago and is the sure promise that Spring and new birth are near.

I hope you enjoy a cloudy day where you are and do the same.

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