Candlemas

candlemas-blogCandlemas is more commonly known as The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, which is a Feast in the Church occurring on February 2nd. The blessing of candles occurs on thid date which along with ashes and palms are the three most popular principal blessings the church offers. Candlemas also signifies the end of the 40 days of the Christmas season.    Some Catholic households will celebrate this day by lighting candles. After a prayer by the father and the appropriate response by the family, a young girl portraying Mary will carry a doll dressed in swaddling clothes representing Christ and will present him to another child dressed as Simeon for his inspection and blessing.

The Feast not only celebrates the presentation of Jesus, but ALSO signifies the purity of the Blessed Virgin. The root of the celebration is from Judaism, where in Mosaic Law, a mother had to purify herself by going to the Temple and receive a blessing by the priest forty days after birth.   The term Candlemas itself refers to the blessing performed on that day, in which a priest lights and blesses beeswax candles. These candles are then given to other clergy and laity while singing and in procession within the church. The whole significance of this event is to bring the Light of Christ in the world.

On Candlemas night, many people place lighted candles in the windows of their homes. Like in some other Christian festivals, Candlemas draws some of its elements from paganism. In pre-christian times, it was the festival of light. This ancient festival marked the midpoint of winter, half way between Winter solstice and the spring equinox. Some people lit candles to scare away spirits on dark winter nights. Some people believed that Candlemas predicted the weather for the rest of the winter.

In medieval times, Candlemas Day was traditionally the time that any remaining Christmas decorations were to be removed, lest some evil befall the household. The poet Robert Herrick (1591–1674) wrote:

CEREMONY UPON CANDLEMAS EVE

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

As the candles we use in our churches stand as a symbol of the Light of Christ, and since Jesus is to be the “Light of the World”, Luke tells us (Luke 2:22-40), that so Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem because every firstborn child was to be dedicated to the Lord. They also went to sacrifice a pair of doves or two young pigeons, showing that Mary and Joseph were poor. Once in the temple, Jesus was purified by the prayer of Simeon, in the presence of Anna the prophetess. Simeon, upon seeing the Messiah, gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimitis:

“Lord, now 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.”

So isn’t this the perfect day to mark the passage of time from the revels of Christmas to the reflections of the Lenten Season? Can we not also present ourselves to our Lord as newly born into his spiritual graces, cleansed of our earthly pleasures, and preparing to imitate the Prophetess Anna in our prayer and fasting before the Glorious Season of Eastertime?  On this day as we celebrate the Light of Christ, we must ask you, in what ways does Christ shine forth from you?  How do your actions, your words, reflect the Light of Christ’s love and salvation?

 

 

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