As I write this in mid-February the snowdrops in our garden and along the roadside are in full bloom. We all know these delicate white flowers as snowdrops but they have many other names connected with the Virgin Mary such as Mary’s bells or Mary’s tapers, the pure white of the flowers echoing the purity of the Virgin. You will often see carpets of snowdrops in churchyards because of the association with Mary and they do not represent death as many people think and so bringing them into the house is not bad luck. Richard always brings me a bunch of snowdrops for my February birthday and they have not brought us any bad luck.
There is a legend that the snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winter would ever end and she wept. God took pity and sent an angel who transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, a promise that the winter would give away to spring. By the end of January the garden does look pretty bleak and then these hardy little flowers appear from nowhere – such a joy.
Another name for the snowdrop is Candlemas Bells because they bloom at Candlemas and the saying goes:
The snowdrop in purest white array
First rears her head on Candlemas day
Candlemas marks the completion of 40 days since the birth of Jesus when under the law Mary and Joseph must take their child to the Temple for the naming of Jesus and the purification of Mary.
Before the advent of gas and then electric light Candlemas was really the mass of the candles. The priest would bless the candles to be used in the church for the next year and people could take their candles into church that day for them also to be blessed.
Today, Candlemas is significant as a turning point in our thoughts. We take a last look at the birth of Jesus and all that belongs to his nativity and turn to face his death and resurrection at Easter.
When you are receiving this in the March magazine you will be in Lent preparing yourselves for the tragedy of Good Friday and the elation of Easter Sunday.
May you have a blessed and revelatory Lent.