Feb 2, 2005

The Presentation of the Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog's Day, an old German tradition imported to America and made totally unrecognizable. I have to admit that I can never keep it straight. He sees his shadow (the sun is shining) and that means six more weeks of winter, right? He doesn't see his shadow (overcast skies), and spring arrives early? Whatever.

Today is also the Feast of the Presentation of the Christ in the Temple, and the Purifiction of the Virgin Mary (Candlemas, too). In our culture (Christian, neo-christian, pagan, and neo-pagan), this feast makes about as much sense as Groundhog's Day. Following the birth of a child, a Hebrew woman would remain secluded for forty days until she was "ritually clean" from the nastiness of childbirth. Then she would present herself in the Temple to be declared "clean" (for a small "fee offering" and sacrifice). She and the father would also present a first born son at this time and offer a sacrifice to redeem him. You see where this is going, right? God sets up a pattern, an archetype, to show dimly how our reconciliation to him is to be accomplished. First born son (only Son), sacrifice, redemption, purification; the strands all begin to come together.

But what about Groundhog's Day? Well, I don't know about its origins in Germany, and I don't really care, but here's what struck me today. Lazarus.

Lazarus comes out of the tomb. If he sees his shadow, then the Son is shining (a dead man can't "see"), and now comes winter (the betrayal and murder of Jesus, and the three days in Hell). So that's where we are, and that's why we are all Lazarus the Groundhog. Jesus calls us out of our tombs. If we don't respond, if we don't hear his call, then we are still dead. But we do hear, and we do respond. We walk out into the light of Christ. There before us lies our shadow, a dark outline of ourselves that contains our sin. But in the Light of Christ, we can see our sin. We can't detach ourselves from it ("simul justus et peccator"), but we can see it clearly and repent. We stand in the bright light of God, we are filled with His light, and our attached sin-life lies before us.

But in the dark, we cast no shadow. We ARE the shadow.

"Lazarus. Come out! Unbind him, and remove the grave clothes."

Alleluia! Christ the light of the world, alleluia!
has manifested his glory. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Now, Lord, you let your servant go in peace:

your word has been fulfilled.

My own eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared in the sight of every people;

A light to reveal you to the nations

and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

Alleluia! Christ the light of the world, alleluia!
has manifested his glory. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Nunc dimittis

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