Tuesday, February 2nd, is the day the Church celebrates Candlemas Day. It is one of the oldest feast days of the Church, and has been celebrated since the 4th Century.
This feast celebrates three important events. It commemorates the day that Our Blessed Mother Mary came to the Temple as the Law required of all women, in order to go through a purification ceremony 40 days after giving birth. Because of this, it is also referred to as the Feast of the Purification of Mary and is the reason why it is always celebrated on February 2nd. It is also the day that Mary and Joseph had to present their newborn Son, Jesus, to God in the Temple and offer a sacrifice on His behalf for His birth. All parents were required to do this for their firstborn sons. For this reason, it is also referred to as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus.
Most importantly, however, bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple was also a great event for the Jewish people, although only one man knew of it. Before the destruction of the First Temple and the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC, the Prophet Ezekiel had a vision of God physically leaving the Temple. Then four hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Malachi prophesied that God Himself would one day physically return again to the Temple. He would appear suddenly and when it was least expected: “In time, the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to His Temple” (Malachi 3:1).
When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple to present Him to God, this prophecy was fulfilled. It was important that this momentous event be noticed, and it was. There was a very elderly man named Simeon who spent all of his time praying in the Temple. God had told him that he would see the Messiah before he died. While Mary and Joseph were fulfilling what the Law required, the Holy Spirit told Simeon that God, the Messiah, had physically returned to the Temple in the form of the infant Jesus. The old man found Mary and Joseph, took the child in his arms, looked up to heaven and said: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). God had returned to His Temple as was prophesied. Jesus, the Messiah, would be the Savior not only of the People of Israel, but of all mankind! Most importantly, Jesus is the light who has come into the world to dispel the darkness of sin!
Because Candlemas Day celebrates these three important occasions, the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the presentation of the Child Jesus, and Jesus' first entry into the Temple, this feast has long been celebrated with great solemnity. In some countries, Candlemas Day is the official end of the Christmas Season, and Christmas decorations are taken down and packed away. More importantly, however, since the Prophet Simeon said that Jesus is a light of revelation to the Gentiles, during this dark time of the year, the early Christians chose this time to celebrate Jesus as the Light of the world. For this reason, the priest blesses the candles that will be used during Mass for that year, and people are encouraged to bring candles that they will use in their homes to be blessed as well. The Mass offered that day is a beautiful candlelit celebration of light, and that is where the name “Candlemas” comes from.
All are welcome to join in this ancient and special celebration of Candlemas Day on Tuesday, February 2nd at the 8:30 AM Mass. Come and be part of the candlelit Mass and bring any candles that you may use at home to be blessed.
On another note, in the 6th Century, a deadly plague broke out in the city of Constantinople. The emperor ordered the people to form a candlelit procession through the streets of the city to pray for deliverance from the plague on Candlemas Day. When the plague passed, candlelit processions became regular forms of prayer in Europe whenever a plague threatened the people. Perhaps this would also be a great opportunity to pray for an end to the pandemic. May Jesus the Light of the world dispel the darkness and bring us His peace. Happy Candlemas Day!BACK TO LIST