It’s what they would say down (very) South when you got ahead of yourself: ‘a bit previous’. Easter eggs in the shops on Boxing Day? A bit previous. And looking forwards to Lent at Candlemas today, as some of the books tell us to? A bit previous.
Candlemas is, we are told, the end of the feasts of the Incarnation. Jesus has been presented in the Temple, and recognised by Simeon as Light of the World. Now we look forward to the feasts of the Resurrection, for which we prepare in Lent. Sometimes they come upon us quite quickly, but this year, it’s eleven and a half weeks yet to Easter, and five to Ash Wednesday. So it does feel ‘previous’ to be anticipating them.
But there’s a tension in Christianity. On the one hand, we yearn towards the future when all things are drawn back to God and fulfilled. We wait for the dawn to break, the light to come, the desert to blossom, peace to descend on Jerusalem, the lion to lie down with the lamb and so on and so on.
On the other hand, we are told to ‘take no thought for the morrow’, to live in the ‘sacrament of the present moment’, to ‘live each day as if ’twere thy last’. And, I would argue, not to be in a state of ‘almost-Lent-so-we’re-getting-a-bit-solemn-and-penitential’.
The Provost of St Mary’s Glasgow is scrupulous about not decorating the Church for Christmas until the end of Advent. I’m going to try not to be Lenten for the next few weeks.