The Romans had gods for pretty much everything, from harvest and rainfall to childbirth and footwear.
One of the more arcane (and scary) ones was Hecate, the shadowy goddess of witchcraft and – seemingly oddly – of crossroads. I think maybe there was a feeling that crossroads were dangerous places, where choices were to be made, irrevocable decisions to be embraced, and maybe a sense of a deity watching over these liminal moments was a comfort. I think something of this resonates in Robert Frost’s most famous poem, “The road not taken”
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Why am I talking about witches, goddesses and melancholy remembering?
Well, February is a mercurial month, very much the crossroads in the Christian year. Candlemas, which this year falls on 2nd February, is the focal point of this crossroads between the two great Liturgical cycles of Advent and Christmas and Lent and Easter, the cycles of Incarnation and Redemption. We take a last look back to the crib (I’ll finally, to my neighbours relief, take down my tree and decorations) and start looking towards the preparation for the events of Holy week.
We turn away from the Manger and look towards to the Cross.
As individuals, it is a time to look back on the past we have known, remembering family and friends, our childhoods and life journeys to this point, then looking forward to the path before us, and where it will lead.
A big difference from our Roman forebears is that instead of invoking a shadowy goddess with incantations and muttered spells to protect our choices, we have a God who knows us & who loves us & in whose gentle arms we are safe, who knows our path and answers prayers before we even ask.
As we look towards the future at this crossroads of the Christian year, know that the Child of Bethlehem is the Man of Sorrows who will be with us every step of the Way.Happy Candlemas! Love, Fr. John