Blaise of Sebaste
3 February 314?

The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple (2 Feb) is also called the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin (see Luke 2:22). Because it celebrates Our Lord's first coming to the Temple at Jerusalem, it occasions Scriptural readings about God's showing His presence in the Temple or in Jerusalem, such as

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles.... (Zephaniah 1:12)

From this reading, the feast takes its popular name of Candlemas, and on it candles are lighted and carried in procession. On the following day, 3 February, in some parishes, after the worship service, those who wish may come forward and have their throats blessed by being touched (externally) with a candle from the day before, and a prayer for protection against respiratory ailments and other throat problems. Why, you ask, this ceremony at this time? Three reasons that I know (or guess):

  1. In much of the world, early February is cough, cold, and flu season.
  2. The candles are traditionally made of beeswax, which (with or without honey) is a standard ingredient in many old remedies for sore throats and related ailments. (My father's aunt Carrie had a family recipe for such a concoction. It seemed to work.)
  3. The day is the Feast of Saint Blaise (or Blasius). He was a bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, and died in a persecution under Licinius (who was Emperor of the East at the time that Constantine became Emperor of the West, and who continued to persecute Christians for some time after Constantine had stopped that practice in the West). According to one story (there are several versions of this), when Blaise was being led to the arena to be executed, he saw among the bystanders lining the streets a boy who had been eating his lunch and was choking on a bone. Blaise darted past his guards, ran to the boy, administered the Heimlich maneuver or whatever, and saved his life. He then returned quietly to his guards and was led to his death. He is accordingly associated with throat problems.

Prayer (traditional language)

Grant us, O Lord, as thou didst grant to thy servant Blaise, that our minds may not be so fixed on our own cares that we fail to perceive and to lay hold upon the opportunities thou dost give us of doing good to others; in the name of Him who came among us as one that serveth, thy only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer (contemporary language)
Grant us, O Lord, as you granted to your servant Blaise, that our minds may not be so fixed on our own cares that we fail to notice and make use of the opportunities you give us of doing good to others; in the name of Him who came among us as one who serves, your only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.