Monday, 27 February 2012

Back from the Quiet place.

Loyola Hall from the front

I went away for a retreat this weekend.  A short one at the Jesuit Centre near Liverpool, Loyola Hall (pictured above).  I had a a very faint connection with it, in as much as my great mentor Donald Nicholson made his Ignatian 30 day retreat there in the 1970's.  However I was drawn in by their provision of a 12 step retreat.  All the participants were in some sort of 12 step programme (AA, NA, Al-Anon etc).  It's a 1st for me (in  agood way) to have the priest start his addresses with the words "I'm X and I'm an alcoholic" but it was good.  Basically I got the chance to go on a 48 hour meeting with Mass and meditation and it helped me to see how much progress I've made (very nearly 3 years sober) and how little (fear and denial still just under the surface).  It gave me a chance to go down into the depths of my emotions and come back with hope and peace.  And to see that I may have turned my life over to god but I'm still struggling with handing over my will.  Oddly enough,  the spiritual gift I was "gifted" in one meditation (by picking up an inscribed ribbon - which begs the question Holy Spirit or Lucky Dip?  I'll go for God working in mysterious ways) was "humility - seeking God's will".  I do try, I suppose, but I'm very bad at it.  Underneath the low-ish self-esteem there is a thundering great, Centre Stage hogging Ego.  but hey, maybe it's what I need right now and this was me being told to cultivate it.

Back to that prayer of St Ignatius:

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess You have given me:
I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace; 

with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ash Wednesday poem.

File:T.S. Elliot Ash Wednesday Cover.jpg

Here's a chunk of appropriate poetry by the sublime T S Eliot for today:

by T S Eliot

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man's gift and that man's scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know again
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow,    for there is nothing again                          Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place I rejoice that things are as they are and I renounce the blessed face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something Upon which to rejoice
And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.


Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper-tree In the cool of the day, having fed to satiety On my legs my heart my liver and that which had been contained  In the hollow round of my skull. And God said
Shall these bones live? Shall these
Bones live? And that which had been contained
In the bones (which were already dry) said chirping: Because of the goodness of this Lady
And because of her loveliness, and because
She honours the Virgin in meditation,
We shine with brightness.                                 And I who am here dissembled
Proffer my deeds to oblivion, and my love
To the posterity of the desert and the fruit of the gourd.  It is this which recovers
My guts the strings of my eyes and the indigestible portions
Which the leopards reject. The Lady is withdrawn In a white gown, to contemplation, in a white gown.
Let the whiteness of bones atone to forgetfulness.
There is no life in them. As I am forgotten
And would be forgotten, so I would forget
Thus devoted, concentrated in purpose. And God said Prophesy to the wind, to the wind only for only The wind will listen. And the bones sang chirping With the burden of the grasshopper, saying Lady of silences
Calm and distressed
Torn and most whole
Rose of memory
Rose of forgetfulness
Exhausted and life-giving
Worried reposeful
The single Rose
Is now the Garden
Where all loves end
Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied
End of the endless
Journey to no end
Conclusion of all that
Is inconclusible
Speech without word and
Word of no speech
Grace to the Mother
For the Garden
Where all love ends.

Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other, Under a tree in the cool of the day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitful face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jagged, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond repair,
Or the toothed gullet of an aged shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broad backed figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the may time with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy
but speak the word only.


Who walked between the violet and the violet
Who walked between
The various ranks of varied green
Going in white and blue, in Mary's colour,
Talking of trivial things
In ignorance and knowledge of eternal dolour
Who moved among the others as they walked,
Who then made strong the fountains and made fresh the springs

Made cool the dry rock and made firm the sand
In blue of larkspur, blue of Mary's colour,
Sovegna vos

Here are the years that walk between, bearing
Away the fiddles and the flutes, restoring
One who moves in the time between sleep and waking, wearing

White light folded, sheathing about her, folded.
The new years walk, restoring
Through a bright cloud of tears, the years, restoring
With a new verse the ancient rhyme. Redeem
The time. Redeem
The unread vision in the higher dream
While jewelled unicorns draw by the gilded hearse.

The silent sister veiled in white and blue
Between the yews, behind the garden god,
Whose flute is breathless, bent her head and signed but spoke no word

But the fountain sprang up and the bird sang down
Redeem the time, redeem the dream
The token of the word unheard, unspoken

Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew
And after this our exile


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

Will the veiled sister pray for
Those who walk in darkness, who chose thee and oppose thee,
Those who are torn on the horn between season and season, time and time, between
Hour and hour, word and word, power and power, those who wait
In darkness? Will the veiled sister pray
For children at the gate
Who will not go away and cannot pray:
Pray for those who chose and oppose

O my people, what have I done unto thee.
Will the veiled sister between the slender
Yew trees pray for those who offend her
And are terrified and cannot surrender
And affirm before the world and deny between the rocks
In the last desert before the last blue rocks
The desert in the garden the garden in the desert
Of drouth, spitting from the mouth the withered apple-seed.

O my people.


Although I do not hope to turn again
Although I do not hope
Although I do not hope to turn
Wavering between the profit and the loss
In this brief transit where the dreams cross
The dreamcrossed twilight between birth and dying
(Bless me father) though I do not wish to wish these things
From the wide window towards the granite shore
The white sails still fly seaward, seaward flying
Unbroken wings
And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell
Quickens to recover
The cry of quail and the whirling plover
And the blind eye creates
The empty forms between the ivory gates
And smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth This is the time of tension between dying and birth The place of solitude where three dreams cross Between blue rocks But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away Let the other yew be shaken and reply.
Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated
And let my cry come unto Thee.
'Ash-Wednesday', from Collected Poems 1909-1962 by T S Eliot, © T S Eliot 1963, Faber & Faber Limited
Worth reflecting on.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Touristy Pleasures!

File:Prospect of Edinburgh Castle from the East (c.1753).jpg

It was off to the Castle today.  Rachel hasn't been round it, so we hit it on the Historic Scotland/English Heritage memberships.  Sadly St Margaret's lovely wee 12 century Chapel was closed for renovations so we had to make do with the stunning Scottish National War Memorial (see below) designed by Sir Robert Lorimer.  We looked up the 2 uncles I never met due to WW2 ending their lives and discovered that Uncle Willie wasn't in the RAF and lost over the Ruhr in 1943 - he was in the Black Watch and it was Sicily.  Uncle Andrew was Caen 1944 also with the Watch.

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We also saw the Royal Scots and Scottish National War Museums instead.  Plus the Great Hall and the Royal Apartments.  Oh yes, and the Scottish Crown Jewels.  The cafe is rather expensive and is called  "The Redcoat" which causes mild Jacobite indigestion! But the soup was nice and didn't!

Our meet up with an old friend was supposed to be at Peckham's in Bruntsfield but it has closed so we had to cross the road to find coffee and chocolate cake!  Hopefully that solves the Best man conundrum in plenty of time.

Less pleasantly, my wee brother has been carted off to the local Infirmary for tests after passing out.  He's been struggling with stomach pains for a while and has been dosed with assorted remedies which ain't working.  He's in overnight whilst they wait for a radiographer and results back tomorrow so hold him in your prayers please.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Ready to be changed.

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The Transfiguration by Raphael.

The Gospel for today is that of the Transfiguration (Mark 9:-2ff). Which makes sense in that it prepares us for the revelation of God's glory that unfolds through the season of Lent, climaxing in the blazing joy of the Easter Vigil.  It is interesting that in Byzantine icons of the Transfiguration, the  emphasis is  light and the manifestation of the glory of God. Such icons try to convey the "uncreated light" of divine glory. 

When we move from thinking that God is actually like our mental or artistic pictures of him/her/it, even in Christ, and recognising that our images (mental artistic, verbal or philosophical) are simply partial glimpses of the immense and incomprehensible nature of the Triune God, then we understand the idea of Transfiguration better .  The Apostles saw and didn't fully understand but understood a bit more and grew somewhat in spiritual stature - they got a bit closer to God.

We often imagine that is closeness is only attained by "spiritual" means - prayer fasting penance etc.  But St Maximus the Confessor begs to differ in a sermon he wrote on Charity: 

"The Lord himself reminds us: Whoever loves me will keep my commandments. And this is my commandment: that you love one another. So the man who does not love his neighbour does not obey God’s command. But one who does not obey his command cannot love God. A man is blessed if he can love all men equally. Moreover, if he truly loves God, he must love his neighbour absolutely. Such a man cannot hoard his wealth. Rather, like God himself, he generously gives from his own resources to each man according to his needs. 

Since he imitates God’s generosity, the only distinction he draws is the person’s need. He does not distinguish between a good man and a bad one, a just man and one who is unjust. Yet his own goodness of will makes him prefer the man who strives after virtue to the one who is depraved.
A charitable mind is not displayed simply in giving money; it is manifested still more by personal service as well as by the communication of God’s word to others: In fact, if a man’s service toward his brothers is genuine and if he really renounces worldly concerns, he is freed from selfish desires. For he now shares in God’s own knowledge and love. Since he does possess God’s love, he does not experience weariness as he follows the Lord his God. Rather, following the prophet Jeremiah, he withstands every type of reproach and hardship without even harbouring an evil thought toward any man.  For Jeremiah warns us: Do not say: “We are the Lord’s temple.” Neither should you say: “Faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save me.” By itself faith accomplishes nothing. For even the devils believe and shudder.
No, faith must be joined to an active love of God which is expressed in good works. The charitable man is distinguished by sincere and long-suffering service to his fellow man: it also means using things aright."
Lenten observance?  Don't just pray -do!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Anglicans and Orthodoxy

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SS Cyril & Methodius, 11th Century fresco, Basilica of S Clemente Rome

Here is some interesting ecumenical news for fans of unity between Churches:  

The Oriental Orthodox are the old "Monophysite"  (now referred to as "Miaphysite") Churches.  However, back in 1984 the Pope and the Patriarch noted that  the Chalcedonian schism was not seen as terribly relevant, and they issued this common statement:

"The confusions and schisms that occurred between their Churches in the later centuries, they realise today, in no way affect or touch the substance of their faith, since these arose only because of differences in terminology and culture and in the various formulae adopted by different theological schools to express the same matter. Accordingly, we find today no real basis for the sad divisions and schisms that subsequently arose between us concerning the doctrine of Incarnation. In words and life we confess the true doctrine concerning Christ our Lord, notwithstanding the differences in interpretation of such a doctrine which arose at the time of the Council of Chalcedon."

This Anglican /Oriental Orthodox agreement is particularly good news, given that tomorrow is the Feast of SS Cyril and Methodius, who were the great missioners of the Slavs, engaged in inter faith dialogue with Islam (albeit with a nasty anti-Jewish slant) or to quote Wikipedia: "Cyril's mastery of theology and command of both Arabic & Hebrew made him eligible for his first mission. He was sent to the Abbasid Caliph to discuss the principle of the Holy Trinity with Arab theologians, and to improve relations between the Caliphate and the Empire.
Cyril took an active role in relations with the other two monotheistic religions, Islam and Judaism. He penned fiercely anti-Jewish polemics, perhaps connected with his mission to the Khazar Khaganate, located near the Sea of Azov and  ruled by a Jewish king who allowed Jews, Muslims, and Christians to live peaceably side by side. He also undertook a mission to the Arabs with whom, according to the "Vita", he held discussions. He is said to have learnt the Hebrew, Samaritan, and Arabic languages during this period.

The second mission (860), requested by the Byzantine Emperor and the Patriarch Photius, was a missionary expedition to the Khazar Khaganate in order to prevent the expansion of Judaism there. This mission was unsuccessful, as later the Khagan imposed Judaism on his people as the national religion."  Cyril & Methodius are patron saints of Ecumenicism, especially between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church Churches and also of Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Europe. Europe.  Give thanks and pray for more unity between Christians.

Lord of all,
who gave to your servants Cyril and Methodius
the gift of tongues to proclaim the gospel to the Slavs:
make your whole Church one as you are one
that all Christians may honour one another,
and east and west acknowledge
 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
and you, the God and Father of all;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen

Sunday, 12 February 2012

The New Bishop!

 Very Rev Dr John Armes

As you might have noticed, we in the Diocese of Embra have been electificating a new Bishop.  Confidentiality and all that means I can't  give a blow by blow account of the process ("No Canon's egos were harmed in the making of this new bishop" and other such disclaimers may be issued elsewhere) but I am personally well chuffed that the Dean, the Very Rev Dr John Armes of St John's Princes Street (that weel kent site for leftist graffiti and Choral Mattins), was elected.  His style has enabled good and creative dialogue to be held with disparate viewpoints both within the Anglican internal context and in Interfaith and political concerns.  And he has been clear about his unease with the whole Anglican Covenant thing and solidly supportive of LGBT people and clergy and in favour of Same Sex relationships being normalised within the Church.  In other words a decent middle of the road Anglican Churchman with sensibly liberal views on some sensitive matters.  And nice and pastoral man (who vaguely resembles the late Vladimir Lenin minus the taste for gulags!)

I prepared for all this electing by going to see "Avenue Q" at the Playhouse the night before but resisted the temptation to go from Electing a Bishop to viewing the new Muppet Movie! Good stuff (like Sesame Street but with refs to porn and being gay and Everyone being a little bit racist!).

Thursday, 9 February 2012

St Scholastica, bossy nun! 

St Scholastica (c. 480 – 10 February 547) was the twin sister of St. Benedict.  St. Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues, tells us that she was a nun and leader of a community of women at Plombariola, about five miles from Benedict's abbey at Monte Cassino. We do not know what rule this community followed, although it seems most likely it was the Rule of St. Benedict.  Scholastica was dedicated to God from an early age (some versions of her life suggest she preceded Benedict in godliness, and he came to holiness after she did). The most often told story about her is that she would, once a year, go and visit her brother at a place near his abbey, and they would spend the day worshipping together and discussing sacred texts and issues.

One year at the end of the day, they had supper and continued their conversation. When Benedict tried to leave, she protested, and begged him to stay with her for the evening so they could continue their discussions. He refused, insisting that he needed to return to his monastery. At that point, Scholastica closed her hands in prayer, and after a moment, a wild storm started outside the guest house they were  in. Benedict asked, "What have you done?". She replied, "I asked you and you would not listen; so I asked my God and he did listen. So now go off, if you can, leave me and return to your monastery." Benedict was unable to return that night, and they spent the night in discussion. According to Gregory's Dialogues, 3 days later, from his cell, Benedict saw his sister's soul leaving the earth and ascending to heaven in the form of a shining white dove.  Her Feast Day is 10 February. She is the patron saint of nuns, convulsive children, and is invoked against storms and rain.

Lord God, may we, like Saint Scholastica,
serve you with an unsullied love.
Then our joy will be full
as we receive from your loving hand
all that we desire and ask.
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Serving the Servers

Tonight I was off after work to the Cathedral (aka the Big Cauld Church in the West End) for the Edinburgh Servers General Meeting.  By Edinburgh, I mean everything in the Diocese that isn't in the Borders (their servers come under the Fraternity of St Boisil and ain't our problem!).  The meeting lasted just over 1/2 an hour and we ended up with the old Committee + a new Treasurer (aka the Guardian of the Sacred-Sock-under-the-Bed-with-the-pennies-in-it) & 3 new (and tell it not in Gath) and slightly younger members!  The good thing about it was that it was a gathering from all over the diocese: Falkirk, the various City churches (St Ninian's, St John's Princes St, St Michael's, the Cathedral, St Peter's and St Mark's Portobello) and even Haddington.  Sometimes you start to think that servers only exist in the Spike Shops so it was good to see some broad representation at a do.  We finished with Compline in the Lady Chapel which is lovely in the quiet and shadow - even if it is utterly perishing!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Praying when tired.

When it's late and I haven't had time to do any evening office (like when I'm on the backshift), I sometimes opt for prayers with less words and more pictures:-).  Or to put it another way, I find when I'm tired the Daily Office can simply involve too may unfamiliar words and phrases - variable psalms and canticles etc.  Something utterly familiar which I can do with my eyes shut is a blessing.  Being me, the tangible nature of the rosary (beads running soothingly through your fingers) commends itself and also the fact that it uses a few familiar prayers and no more than 5 "pictures from the scriptures" in any given decade.

I was interested to discover that there is another way to start the Rosary than the one i was taught using the Apostle's Creed.  it's the Domincan method. The Dominicans follow the medieval custom of beginning the Rosary like the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary - the Rosary being known as Mary’s prayer.

Let us pray.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, 
and of the Holy Spirit,

V.  Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
R.  Blessed art though amongst women and
     blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

V.  Lord, open my lips. +
R.  And my mouth will proclaim your praise.

V.  God come to my aid.
R.  Lord make haste to help me.

V.  Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
R.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
(Alleluia.) (Praise be to Thee, O Lord, King of everlasting glory.)
It makes life a bit easier when you're tired.  Worth a try perhaps?

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Simple Pleasures

Apologies to Madpriest for nicking this rather joyful little pikkie.  Makes you think though - what makes you happy?  A fast car?  Fine wine?  Or a good meal, good friends and a peaceful end to a day that has been just..pleasant?  Personally, I've grown to appreciate more and more the simpler things that give me pleasure as the years fall past.

The words of the General Thanksgiving from the Prayer Book sum it all up:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honour and glory throughout all ages. Amen.

It's been a good day today.  Thank God.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Good Holmes and new Bishops.

File:Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh.jpg 

It has been brought to my attention (during the lunch break at the Electoral Synod - and no no new bishop yet as this is the "hustings"  meeting, we actually vote next week) that I've been blathering on about saints a lot recently.  True indeed.  The nearest thing to sort of social life I have had recently was an outing to the pictures with Rachel to watch "Sherlock Holmes 2"  Good fun it was too.  having never gone to see one, I was pleasantly surprised by Robert Downey Jr as Holmes, rather impressed by Jude Law as Watson and quietly freaked by Jared Harris as Moriarty.  Actually I was more freaked by a moment when suddenly he was the living, breathing spit of his father, the late, great Richard Harris.  (That's the original Dumbledore to the young and Cromwell opposite Alec Guinness's King Charles I for the film buffs).  I still adore the Jeremy Brett TV series best of all and quite enjoy Benedict Cumberbatch's efforts in Sherlock.  And of course the books are sublime!

The electing of a bishop is an essentially quite humdrum process to anyone who's ever been in politics.  3 candidates, 3 presentations to say why we should pick X or Y, 1/2 an hour to create some questions.  Then lunch and the candidates respond to the questions (4 composite queries were submitted).  Personally I'd rather have had unedited questions from the floor  a la General Synod and none of the "redacted by the primus" queries which really didn't give us much of a chance to get a feel for the candidates style under fire.  However, the process was efficiently done and simply confirmed me in my reaction when Bishop Brian retired.  I was asked who I thought might be a good bishop, I named a certain priest who is one of the 3 shortlisted and after today's hustings, I felt his vision and manner were what I think the diocese needs just now.  which I did a year ago.  No surprises there then.  At least I'm consistent.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


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 The Black Madonna of Candelaria, Tenerife. Feast day today.

Candlemass is one of my favourite festivals of the BVM.  And one of the oldest: there are sermons on the Feast extant by Methodius of Patara (died 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (deid 360), Gregory the Theologian (away upstairs 389), Amphilochius of Iconium (passed on in 394), Gregory of Nyssa (off to glory in  400), and John Chrysostom (effectively martyred in 407).

The earliest reference to special liturgies are recorded by the travelling nun Egeria, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381–384). She reported that 14 February was solemnly kept in Jerusalem with a procession to the Basilica of the Resurrection, with a a sermon on Luke 2:22 (the Candlemas Gospel), and a celebration of the  Divine Liturgy.  The date of 14 February indicates that in Jerusalem at that time, Christ's birth was celebrated on 6 January, Epiphany. Egeria wrote to the nuns at home:

XXVI. "The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honour, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day, and Simeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw him, treating of the words which they spake when they saw the Lord, and of that offering which his parents made. And when everything that is customary has been done in order, the sacrament is celebrated, and the dismissal takes place."
 In 542 the feast was established throughout the Byzantine Empire by Justinian I. In 541 a terrible plague had broken out in Constantinople, killing thousands. The Emperor, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire Empire. On the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord (the Orthodox name for Candlemas), there were great processions in towns and villages and solemn prayer services to ask for deliverance and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, the feast was upgraded.

In the West, the feast 1st appears in the Gelasian Sacramentary (7th/8th centuries). There it was called the new title of the feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Candlemas is the most ancient of all the festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary. The date of the feast in Rome was moved forward to 2 February, after the late 4th century when the feast of the Nativity was fixed as 25 December. It spread slowly at first; not being found in the Lectionary of Silos (650) nor in the Calendar (731–741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris.  By the tenth century the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, had a formula used for blessing the candles. Candlemas  became important enough to find its way into the secular calendar. It was the traditional day to remove the cattle from the hay meadows, and from the field that was to be ploughed and sown that spring. References to it are common in late medieval and early Modern literature; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is recorded as having its first performance on Candlemas Day, 1602. 

Almighty and ever-living God,
on this day your Only-Begotten Son
was presented in the Temple,
in flesh and blood like ours.
Purify us in mind and heart
that we may meet you in your glory.
through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God for ever and ever.  Amen.